Robert Lee

By Zach Armstrong

WASHINGTON, DC -- A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, which stood as the state of Virginia's contribution to the National Statuary Hall alongside George Washington for over a century, has been removed from the United States Capitol.

            Earlier this year, a state commission led by Sen. Louise Lucas (D) recommended the removal of the statue from the Capitol with a unanimous vote.

“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” said Northam in a statement. “The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion. I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of color represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did.”

The commonwealth plans to replace the statue of Lee with one of civil rights icon Barbara Johns who led a student strike in 1951 for equal education at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. Her case was one of five that were consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education in which the Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional in 1954.

“When I think of Barbara Johns, I am reminded of how brave she was at such a young age. It’s time for us to start singing the songs of some of the Virginians who have done great things that have gone unnoticed. This is a proud moment for our Commonwealth, and I am humbled to have been a part of it,” said Delegate Jeion Ward to NBC News.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced her support of the move releasing a statement saying “The removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee and its forthcoming replacement by a tribute to Barbara Johns, a civil rights pioneer and pride of Virginia, is welcome news. The halls of Congress are the very heart of our Democracy, and the statues within the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans,”

The statue will be transported to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, Northam's office said according to the Hill.