Crews dismantling the Lee Monument pedestal in Richmond found what they believe to be an 1887 time capsule believed to contain Confederate memorabilia and a possible photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the Governor’s office announced Friday.
“Workers noticed something that looked ‘different’ this morning, so they chiseled down with a hammer and found the top of what appears to be the time capsule–located inside a large block, under one inch of cement. It was located approximately 20 feet in the air, in the tower, not in the pedestal’s base. It was located approximately 8 feet from the outside of the granite and about one foot from the edge of the core. It appears to be largely undamaged,” the announcement states.
Crews have begun work to remove the pedestal that used to hold the Lee statue in Richmond. On Sunday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that the pedestal would be removed to storage in a process lasting through December, and that after the pedestal was removed, the land underneath would be given to the City of Richmond. On Monday evening, the pedestal was surrounded by scaffolding.
“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” Northam said in the press release. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”
The Robert E. Lee statue that towered over Richmond for more than a century is on its way to storage. A crowd of a few hundred people peered through tree branches trying to watch from the public viewing site, and cheered as the monument was lifted off its pedestal. Crews cut along an original seam and removed Lee’s torso from the rest of the statue to allow transport by flatbed truck. The mood among the public was largely upbeat.
“It’s powerful for one day to dig in and celebrate, but you have to remember it’s just symbolic and it really doesn’t change anything about our lives. So we have to make real change,” Richmond resident Emily Gaidowski told The Virginia Star.
After prompting from state authorities, Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) has proposed changing its name to Virginia Peninsula Community College. Thomas Nelson signed the Declaration of Independence and was Governor of Virginia. However, he owned a large Virginia estate that included slaves, and he had a “lifelong investment in the institution of slavery” with a desire to perpetuate it, according to a TNCC historical background article.
In July 2020, as part of a national reckoning over monuments and historical treatment of Black Americans, Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges (VSBCC) asked Virginia’s 23 community colleges to review the “appropriateness” of school names and the names of facilities.
The Virginia Supreme Court dissolved injunctions blocking the removal of the Lee monument in Richmond, according to an opinion and an order published by the court on Thursday. In June 2020, Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the monument, which sits on a small piece of land owned by Virginia in the middle of Richmond. Courts issued injunctions to prevent removal while considering two lawsuits challenging the legal authority to remove the monument.
In Taylor v. Northam, plaintiffs argued that documents from the late 1800s prevent the removal. But the court said that the restrictive covenants are unenforceable, and said that they unreasonably try to force government speech indefinitely.
The Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments for two lawsuits blocking the removal of the Lee statue in Richmond on Tuesday.
A year ago, protests sparked by Minneapolis’ police treatment of George Floyd spread across the country. In Virginia, those protests spurred politicians to start removing controversial Confederate monuments. Although Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney was able to quickly remove most of the monuments on Monument Avenue, the most famous monument — a huge statue of Robert E. Lee — sits on state property ceded to the state under conditions that have complicated efforts to remove the bronze general.
With significant law enforcement presence in the immediate area, workers installed fencing around the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond on Monday morning as part of the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) plans to remove the controversial statue from its prominent location.
The temporary fencing, which completely encircles the monument grounds, was erected to ensure the safety of visitors and workers as DGS prepares the site for the eventual removal of the statue, according to a news release from the agency published Monday.