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Gov. Northam Takes Step Toward Removing Robert E. Lee Statue From the US Capitol

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is seeking to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that sits in the United States Capitol.

The statue is one of two that Virginia has displayed in the Capitol — each state gets to display two statues in the Capitol — the other statue is of former President George Washington.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Northam said the governor had filed a drafting request for a bill to remove and replace the statue of Lee, according to NBC News.

Northam’s move to replace the statue comes after a letter from two Democratic lawmakers from Virginia — Rep. Jennifer Wexton and Rep. Donald McEachin — who claim the statue “aimed to rewrite Lee’s reputation from that of a cruel slave owner and Confederate General to portraying him as a kind man and reluctant war hero who selflessly served his home state of Virginia.”

The letter runs through a variety of challenges that people of color face in Virginia, then lists several historical figures from Virginia who “bravely chose to fight for justice and equality” as suggestions to replace Lee.

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Among those named include Virginians Oliver Hill and Barbara Johns, as well as Booker T. Washington, Maggie Walker, and Nat Turner.

“There are countless commendable Virginians who would better represent our Commonwealth in the U.S. Capitol than a Confederate General, including the Virginians, mentioned above. To that end, we urge you to include the replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol as part of your agenda for the 2020 Legislative Session.”

Northam’s decision comes as he has been praised for his effort to fight racial inequality in Virginia after he faced calls to resign amid allegations of racism.

Last year, a photo surfaced from his medical school yearbook of a person wearing blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe for a Halloween party.

But less than a year later, those calls subsided as Northam tried to atone for the picture.

Last week, The Washington Post’s editorial board praised Northam’s efforts to focus on “racial equity and reconciliation” and listed a series of actions Northam has taken to make life better for minority residents of his state.

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