The Virginia Military Institute began work Monday to remove a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, an effort initiated this fall after allegations of systemic racism roiled the school. A crew was inspecting the statue at the public military college in Lexington, poised to haul away the statue of Jackson that cadets were required to salute until several years ago. Per the AP, VMI's board voted to remove the statue in late October after the Washington Post published a story that described an “atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity” at VMI. The piece detailed incidents such as lynching threats and a white professor reminiscing in class about her father’s Ku Klux Klan membership. The story led to the ouster of VMI’s superintendent, retired Army Gen. JH Binford Peay III, and prompted state officials to hire an outside firm to investigate the students’ allegations.
The statue had been a subject of controversy for years, but the school had committed to keeping it in front of VMI’s historic barracks as recently as July. VMI said it will be relocated to a nearby Civil War museum at a battlefield where dozens of VMI cadets were killed or wounded. Since Peay’s departure, VMI announced Cedric Wins, a retired Army major general, will serve as interim superintendent. Wins will be its first Black superintendent. “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 Monday. But “VMI does not define itself by this statue and that is why this move is appropriate." The school said contractors will reinstall the bronze statue at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and New Market Battlefield State Historical Park at a cost of $209,000.
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