Robert Edward Lee Sculpture

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Robert Edward Lee Sculpture
Lee Park, Charlottesville, VA.jpg
The sculpture in January 2006
Robert Edward Lee Sculpture is located in Virginia
Robert Edward Lee Sculpture
Robert Edward Lee Sculpture is located in the US
Robert Edward Lee Sculpture
Location Emancipation Park (Charlottesville, Virginia), bounded by Market, Jefferson, 1st and 2nd streets, Northeast
Coordinates 38°1′54″N 78°28′50″W / 38.03167°N 78.48056°W / 38.03167; -78.48056Coordinates: 38°1′54″N 78°28′50″W / 38.03167°N 78.48056°W / 38.03167; -78.48056
Area less than one acre
Built 1924 (1924)
Architect Henry Shrady; Leo Lentelli
Architectural style bronze sculpture
MPS Four Monumental Figurative Outdoor Sculptures in Charlottesville MPS
NRHP Reference # 97000447[1]
VLR # 104-0264
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 16, 1997
Designated VLR June 19, 1996[2]

Robert Edward Lee Sculpture is an outdoor bronze equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveller. Commissioned in 1917 and forged in 1924, it is located in Charlottesville, Virginia's Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County Courthouse Historic District. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.[1]


In 1917 Paul Goodloe McIntire commissioned the statue from the artist Henry Shrady (1871–1922). It was the second of four works he commissioned from members of the National Sculpture Society. McIntire wanted a public setting for the statue, buying a city block of land and demolishing existing structures on it to create a formal landscaped square, later named Lee Park, the first of four parks he would donate to Charlottesville.[3]

Shrady was chronically ill at the time of the commission – he worked on it slowly but it was still unfinished on his death in 1922. Leo Lentelli (1879–1961) completed the sculpture in 1924, and it was dedicated on May 21 of that year. It was cast in the Roman Bronze Works of Brooklyn, New York. Comparison with a surviving model of the proposed statue by Shrady reveals Lentelli's version is less animated than that intended by Shrady. The sculpture is approximately 26 feet high, 12 feet long, and 8 feet wide at the bottom of the pedestal. The oval granite pedestal was designed by the architect Walter Blair and on its side has the inscription "Robert Edward Lee" with the dates 1807 and 1870.[3]

Proposed removal[edit]

In an open-air press conference beside the Robert E. Lee statue in March 2016, Charlottesville's vice mayor Wes Bellamy called on Charlottesville City Council to remove the statue and rename Lee Park. He claimed that the statue's presence "disrespected" parts of the community, and that he had "spoken with several different people who have said they have refused to step foot in to that park because of what that statue and the name of that park represents. And we can't have that in the city of Charlottesville"[4]

Local NAACP head Rick Turner spoke in support of removal, calling Lee a "terrorist". Others accused the city council and Bellamy of disregarding Lee's historical significance and how important he was to Virginia, of sowing division, and of trying to rewrite history. A petition to remove the statue was initiated, with wording saying the statue represented "hate" and was a "subliminal message of racism".[5][6]

In April 2016, the City Council decided to appoint a special commission, named the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Monuments and Public Spaces, to recommend to city officials how to best handle issues surrounding statues of General Thomas Jonathan Jackson in Court Square and General Robert Edward Lee in Lee Park, as well as other landmarks and monuments. Early in November 2016, the Blue Ribbon Commission voted 6–3 to let both statues remain in place.[7] On November 28, 2016, it voted 7–2 to remove the Lee statue to McIntire Park in Charlottesville and 8–1 to keep the Stonewall Jackson statue in place,[8] delivering a final report with that recommendation to Charlottesville City Council in December.[9]

On February 6, 2017, Charlottesville's five-member City Council voted three votes to two to remove the General Lee statue and, unanimously, to rename Lee Park.[10]

In response, a lawsuit was filed on March 20 by numerous plaintiffs, including the Monument Fund Inc, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and descendants of the statue's donor and sculptor, to block the removal of the Lee statue and another of Stonewall Jackson that the city also plans to remove. The lawsuit sought a temporary injunction to halt the removal, arguing that Charlottesville City Council's decision violated a state law designed to protect American Civil War monuments and memorials of the War Between the States, and that the council had additionally violated the terms of McIntire's gift to Charlottesville of the statue and the land for Lee Park.[11] The city responded by asking that the temporary injunction be denied, arguing that the two statues were not erected to commemorate the Civil War and therefore the Virginia statute protecting war monuments does not apply.[12]

In April 2017, the City Council voted three to two (exactly along the lines of the February vote) that the statue be removed completely from Charlottesville and sold to whoever the Council chooses.[13]

On May 2, 2017, Judge Richard Moore issued a temporary injunction blocking the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue for six months, in the public's interest, pending a court decision in the suit.[14]

Sometime overnight between Friday July 7 and Saturday July 8, the statue was vandalized by being daubed in red paint.[15] It had been vandalized before; in June 2016 the pedestal was spray painted with the words "Black Lives Matter".[16]

Protests against its removal[edit]

Voice of America reports on the May 2017 protests.

On May 13, 2017, alt-right figure Richard B. Spencer led a torch-lit rally in Emancipation Park in protest of the Charlottesville town council's decision to remove and sell the statue and chanted "Jews will not replace us" and "Russia is our friend."[17][18][19][20] Some of the ralliers procured bamboo tiki torches for a second, nighttime rally, but put out their torches and left as police officers began to arrive to disperse them.[18]

Protesters to the rally itself gathered the following day and held a silent candlelight vigil that attracted over a hundred of the town's citizens,[19][21] and the incumbent mayor of Charlottesville, Michael Signer, who opposed the statue's removal, condemned the protest, and the funds dedicated to the preserving of the Robert E. Lee statue denied having any involvement in the rally.[18] Despite some conflict, no arrests were made or anyone injured.[20][17]

On July 8, 2017, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Charlottesville protesting the city's plan to remove the statue. The approximately 50 Klansmen were met by several hundred counter-protesters. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and made 23 arrests.[22]

On August 12, 2017, during the Unite the Right rally, clashes broke out between supporters of the statue, who marched under Neo-Nazi flags and shouted slogans including "Jews will not replace us", and counter protesters. During the rally, counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed and 19 injured by a car ramming attack.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Betsey Gohdes-Baten (April 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Robert Edward Lee Sculpture" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.  and Accompanying photo
  4. ^ Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy: Take Down Robert E. Lee Statue [1]
  5. ^ People Show Support for, Opposition to Lee Statue in Charlottesville,[2]
  6. ^ The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm [3]
  7. ^ Commission Votes 6-3 to Keep Confederate Statues in Charlottesville [4]
  8. ^ Blue Ribbon Commission Votes on Plans for Statues at Final Meeting [5]
  9. ^ Blue Ribbon Commission Delivers Final Report to City Council [6]
  10. ^ Laughland, Oliver (May 14, 2017). "White nationalist Richard Spencer at rally over Confederate statue's removal". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2017. 
  11. ^ Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Removal of Confederate Statues[7]
  12. ^ "Judge halts removal of Lee statue for 6 months". Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  13. ^ Charlottesville City Council Votes to Sell Statue by Bid, Rename Lee Park [8]
  14. ^ "Judge halts removal of Lee statue for 6 months". Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  15. ^ Lee Statue Vandalized Ahead of KKK Rally in Charlottesville[9]
  16. ^ The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm [10]
  17. ^ a b McCausland, Phil (13 May 2017). "White Nationalist Leads Torch-Bearing Protesters Against Removal of Confederate Statue". NBC News. NBC. NBC. Retrieved 15 May 2017. 
  18. ^ a b c Hensley, Nicole (2017-05-14). "Torch-wielding protesters chanting 'Russia is our friend' rally at Confederate statue in Virginia". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  19. ^ a b "Mayor: Torch-lit protest in Charlottesville, Va. "hearkens back to the days of the KKK"". CBS News. May 15, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b Laughland, Oliver. "White nationalist Richard Spencer at rally over Confederate statue's removal". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  21. ^ Wise, Scott. "Counter-rally lights up Lee Park with candles, not torches". CBS 6. CBS. Retrieved 15 May 2017. 
  22. ^ Ellis, Ralph (July 8, 2017). "Counterprotesters outnumber, confront Klan supporters at Virginia KKK rally". CNN. Retrieved July 8, 2017. 
  23. ^ "State of emergency declared amid violence at Charlottesville's 'Unite the Right' rally". CNN. August 12, 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2017.