Albemarle Confederate soldier statue

DAILY PROGRESS FILE

A Confederate statue stands in front of Albemarle County’s courthouse.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors likely will be among the first Central Virginia officials to publicly discuss removing a Confederate monument under a new law as the Charlottesville City Council continues to face hurdles.

According to the Board’s July 1 agenda, Civil War monuments and memorials will be discussed. The meeting is the same day that a new law goes into effect, allowing localities the authority to remove, relocate or alter their war monuments after following a public process.

A “Johnny Reb” statue has sat in front of the Albemarle County courthouse since 1909.

The law requires localities to first publish a notice of intent in a newspaper, followed by a public hearing within 30 days, which county spokesperson Emily Kilroy has said could run in The Daily Progress as early as July 7, with a special meeting to follow in August.

After holding a special hearing, a locality must offer the monument or memorial for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield, and must wait 30 days before removal.

The language of the law gives the locality “sole authority to determine the final disposition of the monument or memorial,” indicating that the locality can grant possession of a statue to a private entity.

If Albemarle sticks to the potential timeline, then the earliest the statue could be removed, relocated recontextualized or covered would be Sept. 5.

Remaining legal complications will likely extend the process for removing Charlottesville’s monuments, should the city try to do so again.

The winners of a lawsuit that found the Charlottesville City Council violated state code in a vote to remove a Confederate statue in 2017 recently ceded to the new law.

No hearing or further motions have been filed since the Monument Fund filed to partially dissolve the permanent injunction barring the statues’ removal, but Charles “Buddy” Weber, a plaintiff and spokesman for the Monument Fund, said the group is not interested in extending the litigation.

The motion also indicates that the Monument Fund has received an offer from a “generous donor” to relocate the Lee statue and perhaps also the Jackson statue, and several locations are under consideration.

In an email, City Councilor Heather Hill affirmed the body’s “commitment to following the process under the new statute,” but did not clarify whether the city had a potential timeline for removing the Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson statues.

“The city council is currently working with its legal counsel to pursue the necessary steps to dissolve the injunction and conduct a public hearing about the removal of the statues pursuant to the recently enacted legislation,” Hill wrote.

Elsewhere in town, the fate of other statues remains unclear.

In November, the council voted to direct city staff to create a plan for removing a West Main Street statue commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition. The statue, which depicts explorers Meriwether Lewis, who was born in Albemarle County, and William Clark, accompanied by Lemhi Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea, has received criticism for its depiction of Sacagawea.

City spokesman Brian Wheeler said the city had nothing to announce yet in terms of a cost estimate or plan for its removal.

The Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Albemarle County has expressed interest in having the statue relocated to its facility and recontextualized, according to Alexandria Searls, the center’s executive director.

Searls said the center has not had further communication about moving the statute since the fall, but would seek to work with descendants of Sacagawea and other Indigenous individuals and groups to contextualize the statue.

“We are definitely interested in having an American Indian interpretation of the statue,” she said. “Perhaps the statue, portrayed in a more accurate light, could have draw attention to Indigenous causes and get young people interested.”

Further down West Main Street, a statue of George Rogers Clark has also attracted calls for removal.

Clark, who was born in Albemarle County, was a general who fought Native American tribes as the U.S. expanded westward following the Revolutionary War.

The statue calls him the “Conqueror of the Northwest.” It sits at the intersection of West Main Street and Jefferson Park Avenue on University of Virginia property.

According to UVa spokesman Wes Hester, discussion on what to do with the statue has been referred to the UVa President Jim Ryan’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation; the group has been on hold for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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