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Virginia Military Institute removes statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson from campus

The Virginia Military Institute has removed the statue of Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson from campus after allegations of racial injustice and discrimination rocked the campus this year. 

"VMI does not define itself by this statue and that is why this move is appropriate," interim superintendent Cedric Wins, a retired U.S. Army major general, said Monday in a statement. "We are defined by our unique system of education and the quality and character of the graduates the Institute produces. Our graduates embody the values of honor, respect, civility, self-discipline, and professionalism. This is how we will continue to be defined."

First-year cadets used to be required to salute the statue of Jackson, a tradition that was stopped in 2015 after students began objecting to the school's "heavy focus" on the Confederacy's role in the Civil War. After previously stating the statue would not be removed, VMI announced it will be relocated to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and New Market Battlefield State Historical Park. 

The removal of the statue will cost the school $209,000, which will come out of the school's facility maintenance and operations account. The statue's installation at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.

Virginia Military Institute
A statue of Confederate leader Stonewall Jackson is removed from the Virginia Military Institute. WDBJ

The removal of the Jackson statue comes as VMI, the nation's oldest state-run military college, continues to wrestle with accusations of racial injustice. An October report in the Washington Post detailed allegations of racism from Black cadets at the college. According to the Post, many Black students felt unheard, surrounded by Confederate landmarks and reenactments, and had been subjected to numerous incidents of racism from fellow students and instructors.

The school's former superintendent, General J.H Binford Peay III, resigned after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, an alumnus of the school, ordered an investigation into the allegations of racism at the college. Peay, who held the position for 17 years, previously defended the decision not to remove the statue of Jackson by citing the institution's "direct ties" to the general, who taught at the school. 

Three days after Peay's resignation, the school's board of directors ordered the statue's removal. Wins, a Black 1984 graduate of VMI, was appointed as interim superintendent and will continue to serve until a permanent superintendent is chosen. 

In addition to removing the statue of Jackson, the VMI Board of Visitors has committed to appointing a permanent diversity officer, creating a permanent diversity and inclusion committee on the Board of Visitors, creating "diversity initiatives to include a focus on gender" and adopting new hiring practices and a diversity hiring plan; all in an effort to "honestly address historical inequities and be intentional about creating a better future."

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