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With Robert E. Lee's Statue Gone, Virginia Reveals Some New Plans For Its Pedestal

Crews work to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Wednesday in Richmond, Va.
Crews work to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Wednesday in Richmond, Va.

One of the largest Confederate monuments came down Wednesday in Richmond, Va. Now, the state is announcing new plans for the base that used to hold the massive statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

They're going to remove a 133-year-old copper time capsule inside the pedestal and replace it with one that they say will reflect the current cultural climate in Virginia.

"The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release. "It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story."

In June 2020, just days after the murder of George Floyd, Northam announced the decision to remove the Lee statue. Floyd's death sparked protests over police brutality and racism across the United States.

The Commonwealth removed the 12 ton Lee statue on Wednesday, more than 130 years after it was first installed.

The history behind the old time capsule

The original time capsule was placed in the pedestal of the Confederate monument on Oct. 27, 1887, according to Virginia historians.

In a statement from Northam's office, officials said records from the Library of Virginia show that the people of Richmond contributed approximately 60 artifacts featured inside of the capsule.

Some of the objects of the old capsule are believed to have ties to the Confederacy, the governor's office said.

"This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it's time to remove both so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021," Northam said.

When the capsule is removed on Thursday, state officials said the original capsule will be given to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources — making room for the Commonwealth's new capsule in its place.

The new time capsule is meant to represent Virginia now

The new capsule was created by Virginia artist Paul DiPasquale, the sculptor behind both the Arthur Ashe monument in Richmond and the King Neptune statue in Virginia Beach.

According to the governor's office, a group of historians, educators, artists and state officials worked together to select nearly 40 submissions to be placed inside the new time capsule.

Some of the items include a photo of a Black ballerina taken by a local Richmond photographer in front of the statue, Kente cloth worn at the 400th commemoration of 1619, a "Black Lives Matter" sticker, "Stop Asian Hate" fliers, an LGBTQ pride pin, and an expired vial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

"Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us," DiPasquale said. "The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia."

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