The statue of General Robert E. Lee that sparked Charlottesville‘s Unite the Right rally has been secretly melted down by the city’s black history museum.
The statue of Lee, who was a prominent slave owner and revered Confederate Army general, was removed from its plinth in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July 2021.
After being taken down over two years ago, the statue has now been secretly melted down inside a Southern foundry.
According to The Washington Post, the statue was cut into fragments and then dissolved in a furnace at a secret location due to fears of backlash.
The 26-foot-tall bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee was removed from its base in July 2021
White supremacist groups had fought for the statue to not be taken down, with the infamous ‘Unite the Right rally congregating at the statue.
Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists streamed into Charlottesville for one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists.
The Washington Post said that Charlottesville’s black history museum obtained the statue and had it melted down.
Andrea Douglas, the museum’s executive director, told the outlet: ‘Well, they can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.’
The Post said bronze ingots from the Lee statue will be used by a group known as ‘Swords Into Plowshares’ to make a piece of public artwork to be displayed in Charlottesville.
The newspaper quoted the owner of the foundry, a Black man who was not identified, as saying it was an ‘honor’ to melt down the statue.
He added: ‘The risk is being targeted by people of hate, having my business damaged, having threats to family and friends.
‘When you are approached with such an honor, especially to destroy hate, you have to do it.
Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army, from The Library of Congress
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee being removed in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July 2021
‘It is time to dismantle this hate, this infection that has plagued our beautiful country.’
Opponents claim the statues of Confederate generals were not built as memorials, but as a means to intimidate African Americans and glorify white supremacy.
However, supporters say that bids to remove Confederate statues are an attempt to erase history.
White supremacists rallied by torch-light at the state in May 2017, following a small group of Klansmen in July, far outnumbered by peaceful protesters.
The issue reached a crescendo in August, when white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizers of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally gathered in the city to defend the statue of Lee.
They seized on the issue for publicity, meeting in what was the largest gathering of extremists in at least a decade.
They brawled in the streets with anti-racist counter protesters as police largely stood by and watched.
In August 2017, white supremacists marched on Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate war monuments across the south
A group of white activists participate in a torch lit march through the University of Virginia campus ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville back in August 2017
White supremacists are seen gathering under the statue of Robert E. Lee during the Unite The Right rally
A short time later, James Alex Fields, Jr – an avowed white supremacist and admirer of Adolf Hitler – intentionally plowed his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and leaving others with life-altering injuries.
Fields entered a guilty plea to federal hate crimes in a deal that spared him from possibly getting the death penalty for killing the anti-racism activist.
He admitted that he intentionally plowed his speeding car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters when he entered his guilty plea.
Fields was convicted of first-degree murder and other state charges for killing Heyer and injuring others
After the Unite The Right rally in August 2017, the Lee statue was covered with black tarps on-and-off for a period of six months.
Heather Heyer (left) was killed by white nationalist, Alex Fields Jr (right), while counter-protesting in Charlottesville in August 2017
In Richmond, another statue of General Lee was also removed to fanfare from BLM protestors in September 2021.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made the decision to remove the statue last year ten days after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The statue was erected in 1890, 25 years after the end of the Civil War, and 20 years after Lee’s death.
It was funded by the Lee Monument Commission, founded in 1886, which was led by Lee’s nephew, former Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee.
Children are seen playing near the newly unveiled Emancipation and Freedom Monument
After the removal of that statue of Lee, a new monument to Virginia’s African Americans who fought for emancipation was unveiled just two miles away from the site.
Designed by Oregon sculptor Thomas Jay Warren, the monument features two 12-foot bronze statues of newly freed slaves.
In a statement after the Richmond statue was removed, then Gov. Ralph Northam said: ‘This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity’.
He added that it represented ‘400 years of history that we should not be proud of’.