Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced plans for the removal of an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue.
“Anything associated with the Confederacy in general and General Lee in particular must be purged to protect our African American neighbors,” said Gov. Northam, who once wore blackface to demonstrate his deep respect for African Americans.
The governor also ordered the destruction of Arlington National Cemetery, built on land once home to “Freedman’s Village” — which after the Civil War helped assist slaves transitioning to freedom and provided housing, education, training, and medical care — before it was used by the Union Army as a camp and headquarters, before it was part of a plantation once owned by Robert E. Lee, which was willed in 1857 to his wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington.
A statement by Gov. Northam’s office said, “The nation’s soul searching over racist monuments must include the 400,000 graves in Arlington, including those of nearly 3,800 former slaves who once had the word ‘Contraband’ inscribed on their gravestones, and the graves of presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, and the bodies of military men and women from every war since the revolution, and former slave James Parks who was buried there with full military honors after dying at age 93 after 60 years of service as a caretaker in 1929.”