Protests and calls to end racism and police brutality have ignited change nationwide, from reopening investigations to toppling down historical monuments. Robert E. Lee is one of many historical figures at the center of the controversy to change the names of institutions and monuments across the US. Lee was a Confederate general who owned slaves and is memorialized in school names and monuments around the US — — and, like the man himself, his name isn’t going away without a fight.
Lee’s name has increased in controversy in recent years as communities demand that parks and schools be renamed, and monuments removed. In 2017, a Robert E. Lee High School in Texas was renamed to L.E.E. (Legacy of Educational Excellence) High School. That same year, a statue of Lee was removed from New Orleans, Louisiana, and moved to an unknown location.
In light of ongoing protests, activists are continuing the fight across the US.
Monuments to Come Down
Before and after of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond Virginia.— AiRVA Drone (@AiRVA_Drone) June 11, 2020
Protestors making their voices heard! The grass turning yellow is a testament to all the people marching to end police brutality in recent weeks. #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/YLOiXR9ada
In Richmond, Virginia, a 61-foot tall bronze statue of Lee is one of several monuments facing an uncertain future. Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the state would “remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible.”
A court order halted the process, but it’s unlikely to remain in effect for very long, Vox reports. In the meantime, protesters have used the statue to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and Gay Pride Month. Activists projected the image of the pride flag and “BLM” on the monument.
In Montgomery, Alabama, protesters toppled down a Lee statue, just a few miles away from its namesake high school. Four people were charged with felony criminal mischief. Likewise, a bust of Lee was removed in Fort Meyers, Florida after protests.
Schools Are Taking on a Name Change
In Tyler, Texas, students and the larger community are demanding to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School. However, this isn’t the first time the demand was made. Back in 2018, community members also pushed for a name change but CNN reports that it failed to go past a school board meeting.
Now, there’s a petition calling for the renaming of the school as well as protesters taking action outside the school district’s administration office to demand change. And this high school isn’t the only one facing a possible name change.
In Springfield, Virginia, Robert E. Lee High School is changing its name after a unanimous Fairfax County School Board vote. They are currently gathering community input prior to voting on the new name on July 23. Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand submitted his own recommendations for a new name, including Barack Obama, Mildred Loving, Cesar Chavez, and Legacy.
When chosen, the new name will go into effect at the start of the 2020-21 school year.