January 12, 2007

State workers got the day off in honor of Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Two hundred years after his birth, Lee continues to stir controversy.

A few miles from the state capitol, members of the NAACP and Virginia Anti-War Network gathered at the base of Monument Avenue’s centerpiece in protest. The Lee statue is the only one Virginia owns on Monument Avenue. Last fall, the Commonwealth spent half a million tax dollars to restore the landmark.

Many are appalled the state forces them to help maintain the hundred year old statue of Robert E. Lee. The group called for schools to stop portraying Lee as a virtuous hero. They also criticized the General Assembly for sponsoring Lee’s birthday celebration.

Two years ago, the legislature set up a subcommittee to prepare for Lee’s 200th birthday. It was led by Delegate Ben Cline. Cline hopes Virginians remember the general’s work beyond the Civil War.

This year the legislature will decide whether or not to issue a state apology for slavery. Members of the NAACP hope that will be less controversial than the legacy Robert E. Lee leaves behind.

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