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Statue of Robert E. Lee to be Melted and Repurposed by Black-led Museum

The controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that found itself at the center of a deadly protest in North Carolina will soon be taking on a new form. Following a vote taken this week, lawmakers have agreed to melt down the problematic monument and turn it into a new piece of public artwork. 

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, members of the Charlottesville City Council voted 4 to 0 to give the statue to one of six bidders reportedly willing to pay as much as $100,000 for the bronze sculpture and another of fellow general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, the Washington Post reported. 

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia can be removed, the state Supreme Court ruled. Photo: 13 News Now/ YouTube screenshot.

The statue that was temporarily removed this summer following the deadly white supremacist-hosted Unite the Right Rally in 2017 that left three dead, including anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. Dozens of others who were protesting against the white nationalists were injured.

Ultimately, the piece was handed over to the only local potential buyer, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a Black-led museum. The organization, whose “Swords Into Plowshares” idea intends to recycle the metal, amassed nearly 30 letters of support from organizations and individuals, including the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia and descendants of Monticello’s enslaved community.

The project looks “to create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful and more reflective of our entire community’s social values,” the museum’s executive director Andrea Douglas explained in a video statement.

“It is a community-based project, that all of the voices of our community will be able to articulate what we want in our public spaces, as opposed to objects that were given to our community that highlighted particular ideology that we no longer share,” Douglas added.  

Artists are gearing up to meet with Charlottesville residents in the coming months, including in forums some time early next year, to discuss and brainstorm ideas with the upcoming piece. 

Efforts to have the statue removed was initially started by a local high school student, Zyahna Bryant, who in 2015 wrote the petition as part of a school project to remove the Lee statue in February 2017; it garnered 700 signatures. 

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