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Robert E. Lee statue melted in secret ceremony, to be remade into 'inclusive' public artwork
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Robert E. Lee statue melted in secret ceremony, to be remade into 'inclusive' public artwork

The statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville has not only been torn down but also melted down in a secret ceremony. The Confederate statue was removed following the 2017 Charlottesville riot and will now be replaced with public artwork that is more "inclusive."

The Washington Post reported that the Robert E. Lee statue was "being cut into fragments and dropped into a furnace, dissolving into a sludge of glowing bronze."

The outlet reported that the destruction of the Confederate monument was done in secrecy – the name and location of the foundry were not revealed to the public for fear of retribution. The group transforming the Confederate statue said they have already been the victims of "past threats."

The owner of the foundry said, "The risk is being targeted by people of hate, having my business damaged, having threats to family and friends. Yet when you are approached with such an honor, especially to destroy hate, you have to do it."

NPR was also at the melting of the statue and noted that it was done "out of state."

"Only a few dozen people, including some who had housed or transported the dismembered figure of Lee, were invited to watch alongside them in secret," according to the Washington Post.

As pieces of the statue were lowered into the furnace burning at 2,250 degrees, Andrea Douglas – executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center – joked, "Well, they can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There will be no tape for that."

Douglas is a leader of the Swords into Plowshares project – a self-described project that is "shaping the national conversation around toppled Confederate statues by modeling a community-engaged process of creative transformation, one that turns historic trauma into an artistic expression of democratic values and inclusive aspirations."

The Swords into Plowshares project is also led by Jalane Schmidt – a University of Virginia religious studies professor.

"We want to transform something that has been toxic in the Charlottesville community," said Schmidt. "We want to transform it into a piece of art that the community can be can be proud of and gather around and not feel excluded or intimidated."

"People are willing to die for symbols," Schmidt added. "And as we saw in Charlottesville, they're willing to kill for them too."

After the statue was melted down, one of the metal-casters said, "It’s a better sculpture right now than it’s ever been. We’re taking away what it meant for some people and transforming it."

The approximately 6,000 pounds of bronze from the statue of Robert E. Lee in uniform riding his horse Traveller will be used to create an "inclusive" piece of artwork.

The Swords into Plowshares project noted, "A primary criteria for our eventual evaluation of artists' proposals is how effectively they incorporate the input we have gathered from the community."

As Blaze News previously reported, the new art project will cost approximately $1.1 million.

"The next phase is to form a jury and solicit artist proposals, with the goal of announcing a finalist in 2024," the Swords into Plowshares website reads. "Ideally, the new art piece(s) will be completed, donated back to the City of Charlottesville, and installed in 2027, the tenth anniversary of the 2017 right-wing attacks."

In August 2017, people who wanted the statue to remain clashed with advocates for tearing down the Confederate sculpture during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. There were also Neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the rally.

James Fields Jr. deliberately rammed his car into a group protesting the Robert E. Lee statue. Heather Heyer was killed, and dozens of others were injured.

The polarizing Confederate statue was taken down from Lee Park (now Market Street Park) in July 2021 after the city of Charlottesville won its legal battle against a coalition of groups wanting the Robert E. Lee statue to remain. A Virginia judge ruled that the statue could be repurposed.

There was a movement to remove Confederate statues across the country following the death of George Floyd. There were 168 Confederate symbols removed across the United States in 2020.

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Paul Sacca

Paul Sacca

Paul Sacca is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@Paul_Sacca →