A deal has been reached between Virginia officials and the city of Richmond to transfer ownership of Confederate monuments to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced the agreement on Thursday, stating in a press release that a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and its 40-foot tall pedestal will be among the removed monuments transferred to the museum. Work is still underway to remove the pedestal, which is now covered in graffiti and other “Black Lives Matter” protest art, the release stated.
Officials said the Black History Museum will partner with the Valentine museum of Richmond and other local cultural institutions to “determine the proper future use of each piece in the collection.”
“Symbols matter, and for too long, Virginia’s most prominent symbols celebrated our country’s tragic division and the side that fought to keep alive the institution of slavery by any means possible,” Northam said. “Now it will be up to our thoughtful museums, informed by the people of Virginia, to determine the future of these artifacts, including the base of the Lee Monument which has taken on special significance as protest art.”
The Richmond City Council must approve the agreement before it is finalized. Mayor Stoney said he would seek the council’s support in January to accept the Lee monument from the state government and transfer ownership of the property over to the Black History Museum, along with the other city-owned Confederate monuments.
“Entrusting the future of these monuments an dpedestals to two of our most respected institutions is the right thing to do,” Stoney said. “They will take the time that is necessary to properly engage the public and ensure the thoughtful future uses of these artifacts.”
The complete list of Confederate monuments being transferred includes monuments to Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Josephy Bryan, Fitzhugh Lee, Confederate Soldier and Sailors, and ceremonial cannon.
The city’s Confederate monuments were removed last summer after Stoney issued an order to do so, during Black Lives Matter protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
According to the Associated Press, the statues have been held in storage since they were removed, spending at least part of the time at the city’s wastewater plant.