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Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue to be melted down by black heritage center in Charlottesville, turned into public art

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The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which was the focal point of the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riots, will be melted down by a black heritage center in town and turned into public art, WVIR-TV reported.

What are the details?

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville is planning on melting down the Lee statue by February, the station added.

"The question of what to do with statues has gotten to this place where we are really saying out loud, ‘Yeah, we really could melt them down,’ and we are not the only community that is thinking about it, but we certainly hope we are the ones who create the road map for others who are interested in doing it," Andrea Douglas, the center's executive director, told WTTG-TV.

Douglas added to WVIR that "it feels really, really eminent and historic. We don’t want to take our trauma and have it moved to another community. The idea that you take an object that has so many connotations that are associated with white supremacy, and then allow it to go to another community where they have to contend with those objects. It feels immoral to us.”

In addition, she said the project's goal is “to create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful and more reflective of our entire community’s social values," Yahoo News said.

The public art project, Swords into Plowshares, will cost about $1.1 million, Douglas told WVIR.

“We have already raised $590,000 in gifts from the Virginia Humanities Open Source, which is one of the largest foundations in the country," Douglas noted to WVIR. "They have already participated in monument processes."

Jalane Schmidt, director of the University of Virginia's Democracy Initiatives Memory Project — a co-sponsor of the Lee statue art endeavor — added to WVIR that "the statue will still be here. It’ll be here with us. Whatever gets created out of these repurposed materials will be here with us."

Schmidt also told the station that the art project will narrate the entire story of how the statue came to be.

Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville to be melted down, remade into art | FOX 5 DC youtu.be

What's the background?

Charlottesville's city council originally voted to remove the Lee statue in 2017, which sparked rioting in the city that summer. But just after midnight Tuesday, the council unanimously voted to donate the statue to the black heritage center in town, the Daily Progress reported.

The 100-year-old statue has been in a city storage facility since it was removed from its spot in town July 10, the outlet said, adding that city officials called for proposals on what to do with the statue in July and September. The black heritage center submitted a proposal suggesting the statue be melted into ingots and transformed into a work of art that reflects the community’s values, the Daily Progress said.

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