News & Politics

The Country’s Biggest Remaining Confederate Statue Comes Down Wednesday in Virginia

Governor Ralph Northam calls Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue a "monument to the Confederate insurrection.”

Image courtesy of Creative Commons. "RVA Counter-Protests Against New-CSA" by Mobilus In Mobili is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0"

Richmond’s six-story-high statue of Robert E. Lee will be taken down Wednesday, in what Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called “an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth.”

The removal of the 12-ton monument—the country’s biggest still-standing confederate statue—comes 131 years after its installation and less than a week after the commonwealth’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the governor has the authority to take it down.  

In a statement Monday announcing the plans to remove the statue, Northam called it a “monument to the Confederate insurrection.”

At 6 p.m. today, work crews will erect a fence around the statue site, which currently sits atop a 40-foot pedestal on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, according to the press release. After the statue itself is removed Wednesday, work crews will return Thursday to take down the plaques from the granite pedestal—which will remain in place until a final decision about its future is made, according to the release. 

Northam first ordered the monument to be taken down more than a year ago, but the process was bogged down by subsequent challenges in court. 

“We are taking an important step this week to embrace the righteous cause and put the ‘Lost Cause’ behind us,” said Richmond’s mayor, Levar Stoney, said in a statement. “Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality.”

Upon its removal, the Robert E. Lee statue will go into storage at a government building, according to the press release. It is not year clear where the statue is headed from there. 

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.