Famed Robert E. Lee statue ‘secretly’ melted down in black history museum after his face is carved off

A bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has been “secretly” melted down by Charlottesville, VA’s black history museum due to fear of backlash over destroying the historic monument.

(Video Credit: Vinegar Hill Magazine)

The statue of Lee, who was a revered Confederate Army general as well as a slave owner, was taken down in July 2021 at the behest of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in the wake of protests by Black Lives Matter and the Unite the Right rally in 2017. The city council voted to have it removed and Northam backed them on it.

Gov. Ralph Northam declared in a statement after the Robert E. Lee statue was removed, “This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity.”

He also said it represented “400 years of history that we should not be proud of.”

The historic piece of art was melted down inside a Southern foundry. The Washington Post is reporting that the statue was cut into fragments and then melted in a furnace at a location that was kept secret.

Andrea Douglas, who is the museum’s executive director told the Washington Post in an interview, Well, they can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

We are turning swords into something else,” Douglas said. “That saber is the object of violence and it was the object of power, the object of conquest. I think that is an important symbol to really sort of dig into.”

“It felt like an execution,” Jalane Schmidt, co-founder of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter and a professor at the University of Virginia, stated according to The Guardian.

“Along with other activists, Schmidt traveled from Charlottesville to watch the melting at the foundry, which organizers will only identify as being ‘somewhere in the south’ out of concerns for the physical safety of the foundry workers,” the news outlet reported.

“It was very solemn. Nobody cheering, nothing like that. It was very quiet. People weren’t even talking,” she recounted.

“I thought of everything that had happened in the last six and a half years,” Lisa Draine, interim project director for Swords into Plowshares, commented. “On August 11 and 12, 2017, with my two daughters, I stood up to torch-bearing neo-Nazis and white nationalists with guns in our streets. My family was traumatized when my younger daughter was badly injured in the terrorist car attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens that day. Our lives would never be the same. The fight to remove Confederate statues from our parks became personal.”

The Rev. Isaac Collins, a pastor in Charlottesville during the summer of 2017 and an activist, also remarked on the destruction of the monument.

“To be present was … it’s hard to put into words,” Collins noted. “We were a part of this hundred-year history of resistance to the statue, but also this 400-year legacy of race in the United States. So, it was very gratifying. It was very sobering. It was humbling.”

The reverend and the group of leftists watched as foundry workers placed pieces of the statue into the furnace one by one. That included Lee’s head.

“The process took hours. We were outside and night had fallen. The statue’s face, mask-like, began to glow,” Draine said. “At one moment, balanced on the fiery furnace, it looked like Lee’s bronze face was crying. I know I was.”

Swords into Plowshares will use bronze ingots from the statue to create a piece of artwork that will be displayed in Charlottesville according to the Washington Post.

One unnamed black man told the news outlet it was an “honor” to destroy the statue.

“The risk is being targeted by people of hate, having my business damaged, having threats to family and friends. When you are approached with such an honor, especially to destroy hate, you have to do it. It is time to dismantle this hate, this infection that has plagued our beautiful country,” he asserted.

Many Americans view the destruction of historic monuments such as the Robert E. Lee statue as an attempt to erase history.

Twenty-five years after the Civil War ended, the statue of Robert E. Lee was erected in 1890. He had died 20 years prior to that. The statue was paid for by the Lee Monument Commission which was headed by Lee’s nephew, former Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee.

Following the removal of the statue, a new one was erected two miles away from where it stood. This one was dedicated to Virginia’s African Americans who fought for emancipation. It was designed by Oregon sculptor Thomas Jay Warren and features two 12-foot bronze statues of newly freed slaves.

The move prompted much criticism from those who fear the consequences of ignoring and erasing history:


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