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NAACP to Lee County, Fla.: Tear down this Gen. Robert E. Lee portrait

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The president of an NAACP branch in Florida has petitioned members of the Lee County Commission to take down a painting of Gen. Robert E. Lee, calling the former Confederate leader a historic symbol of racism.

Lee County was named after the general in 1887 — 22 years after the Civil War wrapped, the Fort Myers News-Press said.

But James Muwakkil, of the Lee County chapter of the NAACP, said the painting, which has hung in the county commission's meeting room for years, divides the community.

"That painting is a symbol of racism. It's a symbol of divisiveness, and it doesn't unify Lee County. It divides Lee County," Mr. Muwakkil said in a letter, the News-Press reported.

County Commissioner Larry Kiker said the commission would have to hold a public meeting on the issue.

"I would be looking for thoughtful conversation based upon the historical value and why it was put there to begin with, mainly because I don't know too much about it," he told the News-Press reported.

The painting hails back decades. The county's commissioners in 1929 asked Virginia lawmakers to help them get a portrait of Lee, the paper reported.

This isn't the first time the NAACP has objected to its presence. In 2007, NAACP members asked the county to hang a painting of President Abraham Lincoln near the Lee portrait, but they were refused.

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