Oct 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

VMI votes to remove Stonewall Jackson statue amid racism allegations

Photo of the Stonewall Jackson's statue at Virginia Military Institute

The Stonewall Jackson statue is propped in front of student barracks at Virginia Military Institute. Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty

Virginia Military Institute's Board of Visitors voted on Thursday to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson from outside student barracks, amid allegations of an enduring racist culture at the school, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The decision comes as the U.S. continues to grapple with its history of systemic racism and oppression of Black Americans.

Catch-up quick: Earlier this year, Black VMI alumni launched a petition that called for the removal of the Jackson statue, saying it would be a "starting point" in acknowledging "the racism and black prejudice that still occurs" at the state-supported military school.

  • Until a few years ago, cadets passing the statue had to salute Jackson, an enslaver who taught at VMI before the Civil War, per the Post.
  • Despite the calls, then-VMI superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III defended Jackson as a “a staunch Christian” and “a military genius."
  • But Peay resigned this week following Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's decision to order an independent investigation into "the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism" at the school.

Where it stands: It is unclear where the statue will go.

  • John Boland, the Board of Visitor's chairman, suggested the statute could be moved to New Market, the Civil War battlefield where VMI cadets died while fighting for the Confederacy, the Post reported.
  • Boland said the school's administration should ultimately recommend its final resting place.

Worth noting: VMI was the last public college in Virginia to integrate, only admitting five Black students in 1968, according to the Post.

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