At Duke University, a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee was removed after it was vandalized on Wednesday night.
The Gen. Lee statue was the second to be vandalized in Durham, N.C. The first act of vandalism occurred Monday, when another Confederate statue was targeted. The near century-old statue of a Confederate soldier that stood in front of the old Durham County courthouse was pulled down by a group of protesters.
On Thursday, it was discovered that one of the 10 statues that line the main entryway of Duke Chapel was vandalized. The carved limestone figure, depicting Gen. Lee, showed damage to the left eye, part of the nose and visible scuff marks where it had been struck.
At the time, Duke’s president, Vincent E. Price, was upset about the damage. He said the school was deciding what to do about the the statue’s existence.
“Duke Chapel is a place of sanctuary and refuge that belongs to every member of the Duke community,” Price said in a statement. “Each of us deserves a voice in determining how to address the questions raised by the statues of Robert E. Lee and others, and confront the darker moments in our nation’s history.”
Then, on Saturday, the university said it removed the statue during the night. In a letter posted in Duke Today, Price said he’d consulted with others about the decision to remove the statue. He wrote:
“After hearing from and consulting with a number of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and with the strong support of the Board of Trustees, I authorized the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from the entrance of Duke Chapel early this morning.
“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.”
Price said the statue will be preserved, and that students can study Duke’s complex past as they prepare for “a more inclusive future.”
“We have a responsibility to come together as a community to determine how we can respond to this unrest in a way that demonstrates our firm commitment to justice, not discrimination; to civil protest, not violence; to authentic dialogue, not rhetoric; and to empathy, not hatred,” Price wrote.
He says he’s creating a commission to advise him on the next steps in “navigating the role of memory and history at Duke.”
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