In Pictures: The Last Days of Virginia’s Embattled Monument to Robert E. Lee, From Its Role as a Site of Protest to Its Dramatic Removal

The statue had been standing since 1890.

Crews prepare to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Steve Helber - Pool/Getty Images.

The 12-ton statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, which has become a national symbol of America’s reckoning with racism in the past year, was removed this morning.

Erected in 1890 next to a tobacco field, the equestrian statue was one of six monuments to Lee in the former Confederate city, and it was the last to be removed.

When the 2020 murder of George Floyd set off nationwide protests, the statue’s pedestal was spray-painted with social justice slogans, and surrounded by dozens of small tributes to other slain Black people.

A tribute to Amadou Diallo, a Black man who was killed by four New York police officers in 1999. All four were acquitted. Photo: Caroline Goldstein.

A tribute to Amadou Diallo, a Black man who was killed by four New York police officers in 1999. All four were acquitted. Photo: Caroline Goldstein.

More than a year after governor Ralph Northam ordered the statue to be taken down from Monument Avenue, a state supreme court denied lawsuits seeking to block its removal. After the ruling was announced, Northam issued a statement: “Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the south is coming down.”

Earlier this summer, the statue of Lee that stood on Charlottesville’s Market Street was removed from view, nearly three years after the 100-year-old monument was the site of a deadly rally organized by neo-Nazis.

See more images of the Robert E. Lee monument below.

The base of the Robert E. Lee statue in November 2020. Photo: Caroline Goldstein.

The base of the Robert E. Lee statue in November 2020. Photo: Caroline Goldstein.

An 8-foot fence is erected around the Robert E. Lee monument on January 25, 2021 in Richmond to prepare the site for the removal of the statue. Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images.

An 8-foot fence is erected around the Robert E. Lee monument on January 25, 2021 in Richmond to prepare the site for the removal of the statue. Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images.

Crews prepare to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue. Photo : Steve Helber - Pool/Getty Images.

Crews prepare to remove one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue. Photo : Steve Helber – Pool/Getty Images.

A hook is lowered from a construction crane next to the statue of Robert E. Lee at the Robert E. Lee Memorial prior to its removal September 8, 2021. Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images.

People watch the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee at Robert E. Lee Memorial September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images.

People watch the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee at Robert E. Lee Memorial September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images.

 

Crews remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Photo : Steve Helber – Pool/Getty Images.

The statue of Robert E. Lee stands on the ground after it was lowered from its pedestal. Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The statue of Robert E. Lee stands on the ground. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The top half of the statue of former Confederate General Robert E. Lee is lifted away after being cut off and removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia on September 8, 2021.Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images.

The top half of the statue of former Confederate General Robert E. Lee is lifted away after being cut off and removed. Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images.

People gathered to watch and cheer as the statue of former Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images.

 


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share