- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2020

The Virginia Military Institute on Monday removed a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson following controversy over allegations of systemic racism at the school.

Contractors took down the bronze statue of the Confederate figure from its pedestal in front of student barracks. However, the pedestal must be repaired before it can be removed, VMI spokesman Col. Bill Wyatt said in an email.

The monument is set to be relocated to the roundabout in front of the nearby Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market.

Removing the massive statue reportedly will cost VMI $209,000, and the project is expected to be completed sometime in the summer or fall of next year.

The Board of Visitors at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college voted in October to relocate the monument after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered an investigation into how the school handles reports of racism.

Mr. Northam and 10 fellow Democratic state leaders sent a joint letter to the school outlining a plan to hire a “non-partisan national organization” to review the “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism.”

The letter said Black cadets “have long faced repeated instances of racism on campus,” and a report by The Washington Post detailed lynching threats, social media attacks, and a professor who talked “fondly” about her family’s Ku Klux Klan history.

The decision came as Confederate monuments were being removed nationwide following George Floyd’s death. Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

VMI initially said in July that Confederate monuments on campus would not be removed but that some traditions would change.

The probe prompted then-Superintendent J.H Binford Peay III, a retired Army general, to resign after having served in the position for 17 years.

After Gen. Peay resigned, VMI announced that a permanent diversity office would be created and named retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins as interim superintendent.

Gen. Wins said Monday in a press release that the school “does not define itself by this statue and that is why this move is appropriate.”

“We are defined by our unique system of education and the quality and character of the graduates the Institute produces,” Gen. Wins said. “Though change can sometimes be difficult, it is time for our beloved Institution to move forward, to strengthen our unique system of education and training, and grow the leaders of tomorrow.”

Former cadet Sir Moses Ezekiel in 1912 donated the replica of his sculpture, which depicts Jackson observing the field before the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, where he died, according to the VMI website.

Jackson reportedly taught as a professor of natural philosophy and artillery tactics at VMI before the Civil War broke out in 1861.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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