- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Virginia Military Institute has no plans to remove or rename Confederate memorials on campus, including more than one honoring Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, the school’s superintendent said Wednesday.

Retired Gen. J.H. Bindford Peay III addressed the future of the military college’s several monuments to the former Confederacy and its leaders in a seven-page letter sent to members of the school’s community.

“We do not currently intend to remove any VMI statues or rename any VMI buildings,” he wrote. “Rather, in the future we will emphasize recognition of leaders from the Institute’s second century.”

The superintendent’s decision means for now the storied school will leave standing its monuments to Jackson, who taught at VMI before leading Confederate forces during the Civil War and is buried nearby.

A number of Confederate monuments were erected on VMI’s campus following the Civil War, including a statue of Jackson and an archway named in his honor near the school’s barracks, as well as a statue depicting Francis H. Smith, a Confederate colonel who served as the school’s first superintendent, and a monument to VMI cadets who helped Confederates fight in the Battle of New Market in May 1864.

Calls to remove Confederate monuments and other symbols of racism have swelled following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in late May while in the custody of police in Minnesota, resulting in several tributes to Jackson recently disappearing throughout the state.

The Prince William County School Board unanimously voted late last month to rename the former Stonewall Jackson Middle School and Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Virginia, near D.C., for example.

More recently, a statue of Jackson that had been on public display for more than a century in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy and current capital of Virginia, was removed earlier this month.

In his letter, VMI’s superintendent said the school “will place unvarnished context on the value and lessons to be learned from the Institute’s rich heritage, while being mindful of the nation’s challenges and sensitivities to being fair and inclusive to all.”

He added the issue is set to be discussed when the school’s Board of Visitors meets in September.

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