LEXINGTON, Va. – The Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors voted unanimously on Thursday to move a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from its prominent place on campus.
John “Bill” Boland, the president of the board, said that it has been the “general consensus” that moving the statue was the right decision, The Roanoke Times reported. Boland’s only concern was cost of moving it.
“I would rather move the statue once rather than twice,” Boland told the newspaper.
Boland said the statue could be moved to the New Market battlefield where VMI cadets fought, or it could be put in storage, the Post reported.
Jackson, who taught at the military academy, died May 10, 1863, from wounds he suffered during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson was a victim of friendly fire.
The board’s decision follows a report by The Washington Post that described bigotry at the 181-year-old school, which received $19 million in state funds during this fiscal year.
After reading about instances of racism by Black cadets, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered an independent investigation into what he called “the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute,” the Post reported.
The school’s superintendent, retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, resigned Monday, the newspaper reported. The four-star general had headed VMI since 2003 and had resisted efforts to removed Jackson’s statue, calling him a “military genius” and “staunch Christian.”
““We want to erase any hint of racism at VMI, in our communities, and in our country,” Peay said earlier this summer. He added that VMI’s past was “intertwined with the history of Virginia and the Civil War,” The Hill reported.
Northam, a 1981 VMI graduate, praised the board’s decision, the Times reported.
“This is a very important first step for the future of VMI, and I’m grateful to the Board of Visitors for doing the right thing,” Northam said in a statement. “Those of us who love this school must continue to come together to make it better — not just for some, but for all.”
The Jackson statue was erected in 1912, the Post reported. Until a few years ago, students were required to salute the statue when they passed it, the newspaper reported.
VMI was the last public college in Virginia to integrate, the Post reported. The school admitted five Black students in 1968, and it took a 1996 Supreme Court decision to allow women to be admitted, the newspaper reported.
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