Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is reportedly taking a break from wearing blackface or a KKK mask himself to announce the removal of an iconic Confederate statue from its prominent place on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, where it has stood for more than 100 years.
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, one of the city’s most famous historical landmarks, was erected in 1890. Civil rights activists and local and state lawmakers, most of them Democrats, have fought for years to have the statue removed, saying its presence causes emotional harm to the city's black residents. Now, after nearly a week of unrest following the death of a black Minneapolis man at the hands of a white police officer, Northam is expected to officially announce the statue's removal Thursday.
It's not yet known when the statue will actually be taken down.
The Lee statue is one of five Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue. The other four commemorate J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Confederate Navy officer Matthew Fontaine Maury. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced on Wednesday that he will introduce an ordinance on July 1 to also remove these four statues in addition to the iconic Lee monument.
“[T]times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians. Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy – it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that,” Stoney said.
A similar statue of a Confederate soldier in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, was removed by its owners, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, earlier this week.
As for the street itself, neither the governor nor the mayor have announced whether “Monument Avenue” will retain its name once all the monuments are gone.