BY: HALEY YAMADA, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — The Virginia Military Institute removed the statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from its Lexington campus on Monday following allegations from Black cadets of racism at the school.
The institution’s board voted to remove the statue from campus in late October after The Washington Post reported on students’ allegations of an “atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity” at the school.
After the story was published on Oct. 17, Virginia lawmakers approved a $1 million budget to open an independent investigation into the student’s allegations.
Soon after, the school’s superintendent, retired Army Gen. H. Binford Peay III, announced his resignation. At the time, Peay said he made the decision to step down after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam‘s “chief of staff conveyed that the governor and certain legislative leaders had lost confidence in my leadership.”
Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement to ABC News at the time that “change is overdue at VMI, and the Board of Visitors bears a deep responsibility to embrace it.”
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) announced on Nov. 13 that retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins would be the school’s interim superintendent. Wins is the first Black leader to serve in that role.
The school’s board also announced other changes on Nov. 23, including the creation of a permanent diversity office.
The statue has been a focus of controversy for years, but the school had committed to keeping it in place as recently as July 2020, when Peay wrote in a statement, “We cannot eliminate our history nor do we desire to do so. Instead, we desire to build upon our past and will do our part to continue to build a strong Institute.”
“I hope you will see that these four goals and five pillars take us positively to the future and address in deeper ways racism and equity than the simple means of removing statues and renaming buildings,” he added.
Wins said that the statue will be relocated to a nearby Civil War museum.
“It is an understatement to say the relocation of the statue has evoked strong opinions on both sides of the issue,” Wins said Monday.
“The history of VMI over the past 181 years is well documented. Stonewall Jackson’s ties to Lexington and the Institute, as an instructor, are part of that history,” Wins said. But “VMI does not define itself by this statue and that is why this move is appropriate.”
ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.
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