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Commission selects civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns to replace Robert E. Lee statue at U.S. Capitol

Barbara Rose Johns
Barbara Rose Johns(Library of Virginia)
Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 7:15 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Commission on Historical Statues in the United States Capitol has recommended that civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns represent Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection, replacing the existing statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Gov. Ralph Northam has also announced that his proposed budget includes dearly $500,000 to replace the statue.

“On April 23, 1951, sixteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns led a student walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, protesting the overcrowded and inferior conditions of the all-Black school compared to those of White students at nearby Farmville High School,” a release said.

Her actions got the support of NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill, who took up her case and filed a lawsuit that would later be one fo five cases the United States Supreme Court reviewed in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka when it declared segregation unconstitutional.

“As a teenager, Barbara Johns bravely led a protest that defied segregation and challenged the barriers that she and her African American peers faced, ultimately dismantling them,” said Northam. “I am proud that her statue will represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where her idealism, courage, and conviction will continue to inspire Virginians, and Americans, to confront inequities and fight for meaningful change now and for generations to come.”

Earlier this year, Northam signed legislation to establish the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol, which was tasked to study the removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue. The commission voted to remove the Lee statue in July.

The commission narrowed down its five finalists of replacements to Oliver Hill, Barbara Johns, John Mercer Langston, Pocahontas and Maggie Walker.

“The Commission has undertaken a very thorough and deliberate process to select a historical figure who represents the values of today’s Virginians,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I thank the members for their dedication and determination to reach this difficult and impactful decision.”

The Lee statue will be removed from the U.S. Capitol in the coming days.

The commission will continue to work to find a sculptor and commission a statue of Barbara Johns.

The Robert E. Lee statue will be removed from the United States Capitol in the coming days. The Commission will continue its work to select a sculptor and commission a statue of Barbara Johns.

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