Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville to be melted down by African American history museum

The controversial monument will be repurposed into a new piece of public art

Updated: December 8, 2021 - 8:20am

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that was the focal point of a deadly 2017 clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be melted down and turned into a new piece of public artwork, following a vote Tuesday by city lawmakers.

The city took down the statue over the summer and has now opted to hand it over to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, which has proposed repurposing the metal to reflect its history and the city's evolving values.

The new project will be titled "Swords Into Plowshares," a project that will "allow Charlottesville to contend with its racist past," said the museum's executive director, Andrea Douglas. "It really is about taking something that had been harmful and transforming it into something that is representative of the city's values today."

The museum says it will consult with Charlottesville residents in the coming months, including several open forums to take place early next year. Residents will determine the guidelines for the piece, then convene a jury to select a winning idea. The final result will be given back to the city to display on public land by 2024.

"What can you generate out of trauma, so you end up with something that is reflective of our contemporary moment?" asked Douglas of what she calls the "creative process" of repurposing the monument.