Confederate Statues Are Being Removed and Turned Into Art

Robert E. Lee’s bronze statue in Charlottesville was taken down over the summer, and was bid over by different museums.


Hannah Kim, Staff Writer

The confederate general Robert E. Lee and his monumental statue in Charlottesville was a symbol that sparked quite the controversy during recent years. In 2017, the Unite the Rally white supremacist group formed a protest, stating they did not support the removal of the confederate statue. The protest quickly turned into a fight between white supremacists/ Neo-Nazis and their counter-protesters. 

Infamously getting out of hand, racial slurs and threatening chants quickly took over the scene. In the aftermath, discussions on what to do with said statue ended up with a temporary tarp on top of the statue, which was then ruled to be indefinite. The controversy of the statue has been ongoing since. 

In 2021 after Black Lives Matter protests that expanded into Charlottesville which once again brought heat on the statue, it was removed. Recently covered with graffiti scattered on the pedestal in support of the BLM movement/ racial justice-inspired art, the statue had just been removed this summer of 2021. 

Debates on what to do with the bronze sculpture erupted, with offers coming in from  “arts groups, historical societies or individuals, some offering to pay the city”. 

The Charlottesville city council ultimately decided on a local option- from the Jefferson School African American Culture. The school of African American culture once hosted the only school for black students in Charlottesville, and in hopes of honor[ing] and preserv[ing] the rich heritage and legacy of the African-American community of Charlottesville” (according to their website), the center won the bid to take the statue and turn it into something new. 

In an interview with news outlets, Andrea Douglas, the museum’s executive director shared that the bronze statue would be melted down into a new piece of art that is transformed from Charlottesville’s racist past. The Jefferson School African American Culture plans on opening its ears to the Charlottesville community, which would set guidelines on certain parts of the art as well as becoming a figure that was collectively decided by local citizens. Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee statue to be melted down for new art

The forums are set to open early next year and are allegedly supposed to have one final jury select the guides for the artwork. Whatever art piece that may come out of the process is set to step its way back into the public eye as a new being with a new meaning.  

In an interview with CNN, the museum founder, Andrea Douglas stated “ the goal for us when we started this process was to take something that has been traumatic in our community, a symbol of racism, and turn it into something that can cause our community to heal”. The piece will be called “Swords into Plowshares”, and will hopefully be revealed on the 100th anniversary of the revealing of the confederate statue in 2024. 

This has extended the conversation and discussion on what to do with all the other confederate statues such as General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, or colonizers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark- which ended up being removed. Though the remains of these statues have no art museums creating any plans, the questioning of our historical figures and former heroes is not slowing down.