The Lee and Jackson statues referred to in the 1924 speeches were removed from their plinths in one piece on July 10, 2021. The Jackson on Little Sorrel statue was sent to the LAXART Museum and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in LA for a future Civil War exhibition. They gave approximately $50,000. for the loan of Jackson. The Charlottesville City Council refused to give them Lee even though the museum offered an additional $50,000. Instead, the City Council gave Lee to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center who expressed a desire to melt the statue down, which resulted in a court case brought by preservationists. The Lee statue was then put into storage and secretly broken up into smaller pieces. Supposedly, the statue wasn’t cut on the joints, meaning it couldn’t be easily reassembled or recognized as Lee and Traveler again. The same day that the Lee and Jackson statues were removed, after an emergency meeting, the City Council ordered Charles Keck’s Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea statue, 1919, also to be removed later in the afternoon. The following day the sculpture grouping with Revolutionary War Brigadier General George Rogers Clark was also removed. These sculptures had all been gifts from Paul Goodloe McIntire.
As to the Lee sculpture sitting in pieces in storage, Andrea Douglas, Executive Director, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, pressed further to melt it down. She obtained much of the $1.1 million funding needed for the meltdown from the Soros Open Society, Charlottesville philanthropist Elizabeth Breeden, and Virginia Humanities. Dr. Douglas wanted the bronze pieces to go toward creating a new statue with community input, which drew criticism from some in the community as a waste of money. They argued that a new statue from bronze would only cost about $100 thousand. Her project is called, “Swords into Plowshares,” and her partner for this venture is local resident, Dr. Jalene Schmidt
. In a press statement on December 8, 2021 to WUSA9 News.
Dr. Douglas defended her position to completely destroy the statue, saying, “It’s a moral decision for us. We don’t want our trauma moved to another community.” Dr. Douglas may be referring to Unite the Right’s disruptive rally to preserve Lee in Lee Park in August 2017 in which all participants had matching tiki torches.
Dr. Douglas was sent a series of questions on September 19, 2022, during the court case to prevent the meltdown. She wrote that she couldn’t answer (due to the court case). Andrea Douglas had announced that the statue was already in pieces, so that it couldn’t be put back together
. In the court case, Plaintiffs, the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation, said cutting up and melting down the the statue was illegal. They wanted the City to recomplete and restore the statue, or find alternative uses for the bronze such as turning the remains into a cannon for a Civil War battlefield.
An advisor to the Monument Fund that represented the Plaintiffs in the suit against the City Council (that gave the statue to the Jefferson School) and school itself, said on October 20, 2023, “Our case was nonsuited (voluntarily dismissed). The Judge made a series of rulings that left the remaining Plaintiff Trevilian with little or nothing to win. Continuing a fight for the sake of fighting, when there are no resources and nothing to win, is contrary to the honorable example of Robert E. Lee. In my view the video of defacing Lee (literally) so outraged folks that bringing any piece of it back to Charlottesville is going to bring violence back to Charlottesville. The deterioration of Charlottesville is evident in what has happened since Lee was removed in the now empty Lee Park: a haven for alcoholics and drug addicts (beware smashed bottles and discarded needles) a tent city for the homeless including the mentally ill just recently shut down. Just in the last month a stabbing in or near Lee park; a murder by eight gunshots a block away. [Lee Park, which was renamed Market Street Park, had become so toxic to the community that it was recently cleared out on October 22, 2023.
] The loss of the Lee monument, a magnificent image of quiet decorum which brought civility and decency to our downtown — has been a loss to us all.”
Recently, November 2, 2023, Andrea Douglas was sent more questions about the meltdown, after it occurred, such as, “With the polls showing statue removals were not supported by 52% of the population why did you pursue the Lee meltdown? Why did you not pursue giving away the Lee statue either to LAXART museum (who offered $50,000. for it, similar to what they’re paying to exhibit the Keck Jackson sculpture, that Charlottesville released to them) or to private individuals, who wouldn’t have experienced any pain from having it on their property or in their museum? Contractor Devon Henry said he lifted the Lee statue in one piece and transported it that way. When someone else broke it down into pieces, which you said couldn’t be put back together, why did you save the head and sword whole? Why didn’t you save the horse’s head whole (which would be of value to collectors?) Since statue removals result in spikes in violent crime, didn’t you consider that a meltdown might incite even greater violence?”
Andrea Douglas once again declined to comment. It should be noted that the video that was distributed publicly of a private meltdown of Lee’s head and sword, seems to contradict her previous statement about the statue had been already cut up into small pieces, giving the illusion that Lee wouldn’t be recognizable. It appears that she had intentionally saved larger pieces of the monument for her video, to make it as lurid and violent as possible, as if a life-like murder was taking place. Was this Dr. Douglas’s ode to peace? Lee had better intentions, to end violence. The Lee statue meltdown can best be described as a premeditated execution in effigy.