“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam, a Democrat, said in the statement. “The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion.”
The governor said the now-removed statue will be replaced with a statue of the late Barbara Rose Johns, an African American woman who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement.
At the age of 16, Johns led a walkout at her high school “protesting the overcrowded and inferior conditions of the all-Black school compared to those of White students” at a nearby high school, the release said. “Historians consider Johns’ protest a pivotal moment that launched the desegregation movement in America.”
At the time, Confederate symbols began coming down across the country and in Virginia, including a Lee statue and several busts honoring Confederate figures in its statehouse.
Northam has also been pushing to remove a statue of Lee from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. A judge ruled in October that the governor is within his power to remove the statue though he cannot immediately do so.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, tweeted about the removal of the Lee statue from the Capitol Monday morning, calling it a “historic & overdue moment.”
“We deserve to be represented by a figure who truly embodies Virginia’s values,” she said.