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With Albemarle County’s “Johnny Reb” statue gone, activists have returned their attention to five other local monuments they say are “symbols of oppression.”

“This is one object that needs to be removed,” Charlottesville activist Don Gathers said Saturday morning, as he watched crews work to take down the monument formally known as “At Ready” from the Albemarle County Circuit Courthouse lawn. “There are still five more.”

Gathers called for the removal of the city of Charlottesville’s Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee Confederate statues, along with the Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea statue. He also called for the University of Virginia to take down its George Rogers Clark and Thomas Jefferson statues.

“These things are symbols of hatred,” he said.

The owners of those five monuments — the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia — have plans to either remove or make changes to each of them.

George Rogers Clark

The University of Virginia’s George Rogers Clark statue was splashed with bright red paint the night of Aug. 17. Credit: Credit: Jessie Higgins/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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The UVA Board of Visitors on Friday voted to remove the George Rogers Clark/“Conqueror of the Northwest” monument from the area near the intersection of West Main Street and Jefferson Park Avenue.

The university plans to begin “a process, working with Indigenous leaders, to determine a suitable place for the statue off Grounds,” according to a university news release.

The university’s timeline for removing the statue is not clear.

The statue, which was donated by Charlottesville-born philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire,  celebrates Albemarle-born George Rogers Clark. Clark led multiple efforts to fight and kill Native Americans in the late 1700s to make way for white settlers who were migrating to what is now an area of the Midwest east of the Mississippi River.

The statue depicts Clark, the brother of explorer William Clark, on horseback with armed men behind him. Before them are three Native American people, one — a woman — is kneeling down and appears to be holding an infant.

Thomas Jefferson

The Thomas Jefferson statue before the University of Virginia’s rotunda at a June 7 “Justice for the Fallen” protest. Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Board of Visitors on Friday also voted to “contextualize” the Thomas Jefferson statue that stands before the Rotunda. 

The Board’s resolution acknowledged Jefferson’s contributions to the University and the nation, but also pointed out that he owned slaves and used slave labor at UVA, in direct contradiction to the ideals of liberty and equality he professed,” according to a news release.

The timeline for this project is also yet unclear.

In the same meeting, the Board of Visitors also voted to rededicate or move the “Whispering Wall,” a memorial to Confederate soldier Frank Hume, and rename Withers-Brown Hall and the Curry School of Education. J.L.M. Curry and Henry Malcolm Withers, who both did not attend or work at UVA, were staunch segregationists.

Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Demonstrators stop at Market Street Park, near the Robert E. Lee statue. Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson statue in Jackson Park. Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

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The fate of the city’s Lee and Jackson monuments, in Market Street Park and Jackson Park respectively, is in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court.

In 2017, a group called the Monument Fund sued the city to stop them from removing those two monuments, which also were gifts from McIntire. A circuit judge sided with the group, citing state law that bars localities from removing or damaging Confederate monuments — even ones they own. The judge issued a permanent injunction to stop the city from acting.

A new law took effect in July that overturned that law, giving localities the right to determine their monuments’ fate. (Albemarle was the first municipality in Virginia to use the law to remove its Confederate statue.)

However, the permanent injunction against the city of Charlottesville remains.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in November and is expected to remove the injunction in accordance with the new state law.

“We don’t expect to know anything until December,” city spokesman Brian Wheeler said in an email.

Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea

Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacajawea from the intersection of West Main Street and Ridge Street in November 2019.

The current statue depicts Sacajawea crouched while Merriweather Lewis and William Clark stand tall. Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf / Charlottesville Tomorrow

The city’s timeline for removing the statue is unclear.

It remains under review by the city manager,” Wheeler said. 

The statue, another gift from McIntire, raised concerns because of its depiction of Sacagawea. Lewis and Clark are depicted as standing and gazing westward and Sacagawea is in a crouched position behind them. In 2009, a plaque was installed that explained the Shoshone woman’s work in guiding the explorers on their transcontinental journey.

The relocation of the statue, possibly to the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park, likely will coincide with the West Main Streetscape project, which had called for it to be shifted to a new position.

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Jessie Higgins

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.