The University of Texas in Austin joins the growing list of institutions and cities across the country removing statues that honor leaders of the Confederacy.
University president Gregory Fenves announced Sunday night that the school was taking down statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston, as well as Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan.
“Last week, the horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” Fenves wrote in a letter to the UT community.
Crews wasted no time, dismantling the statues early Monday in front of a crowd of a few dozen supporters and protesters.
Fenves, in his letter, noted that the statues were “erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation.” The statues “represent the subjugation of African Americans,” he said. “That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
The university formed a task force of faculty, students, alumni and university leaders in 2015 ― after an avowed white supremacist killed nine members of a black church in Charleston, South Carolina ― to evaluate statues on campus of Confederate military and political leaders. At that time, the school decided to move the one for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which is now part of an exhibit at the campus’ Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
“After considering the original task force report and with the events of the past week and my discussions with the campus community in mind, I have decided to relocate” the remaining statues, Fenves said.
The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues are being added to the collection at the Briscoe Center.
Also moved early Monday was a statue honoring former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg, which was part of an exhibit with the others. The statue for Hogg, who served as governor in the 1890s, will be considered for reinstallation elsewhere on campus.
Baltimore was one of the first cities to take down Confederate statues last week in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. Cities across the country followed suit, and more than a dozen jurisdictions have made moves to either reconsider the placement of Confederate statues or approved their removal.
Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, authorized the removal of a Lee statue from the front of its chapel on Saturday.
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