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vmi stonewall

Virginia Military Institute board votes to remove statue of Confederate general

Oct. 30, 2020
The decision to remove the Stonewall Jackson statue comes days after VMI's superintendent resigned.

Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors has voted to remove the prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson from its campus as pressure builds for the state-supported military school to address allegations of racism.

The Washington Post reports that the board’s unanimous decision follows the newspaper's report detailing bigotry at the 181-year-old school in Lexington.

VMI’s superintendent, retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, resigned Monday in the wake of the controversy. The 80-year-old four-star general, who had run VMI since 2003, had resisted calls to remove the Jackson statue, calling him a “military genius” and “staunch Christian.”

The board also agreed to create a diversity office at VMI and a diversity and inclusion committee. Of VMI’s 17 board members, three are Black. All of the school’s top officials, including the VMI chief of staff, the faculty dean and the inspector general/Title IX coordinator, are White men.

After the hearing, the board’s chairman, John “Bill” Boland, acknowledged the statue’s symbolism and said: “It’s time to move forward. [The monument] was drawing a lot of fire and distracting from what our true mission is. The most important thing to me is to maintain our mission and our methods.

The Jackson statue was erected in 1912. Its presence in front of the barracks has always rankled Black cadets, who make up about 8% of VMI’s 1,700 students, as well as some White cadets and alumni.

Until a few years ago, students had to salute the statue when they passed it. This year, Black alumni launched a campaign to remove the Jackson statue.

VMI was the last public college in Virginia to integrate, admitting five Black students in 1968. It took a 1996 Supreme Court decision to end its resistance to admitting women.

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