Virtue signaling: Statue wars continue at Duke University

Virtue signaling: Statue wars continue at Duke University

A shocking act that has sparked heated conversation this month, Duke University removed a statue of General Robert E. Lee after it had been vandalized during a national debate about monuments that support the Confederacy and white supremacy.

The Chicago Tribune noted that “The university said it removed the carved limestone likeness before dawn from the entryway to Duke Chapel, where it stood among 10 historical figures. Officials discovered that the statue's face had been gouged and scarred and that part of the nose is missing.”

Just a week before it was removed, it was also the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia that was the center of the deadly protest that shook the nation.

Duke University president, Vincent Price, wrote a letter to the campus that explained his actions. In it, he wrote, "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.”

Like many cities throughout the American south, Durham has been at the center in the debate over Confederate statues that still stand on public land and on university campuses. The city has been the setting for numerous protests and resulting arrests of activist who have been calling for the removal of these monuments.

“Other monuments around North Carolina also have been vandalized since the Charlottesville protest, and calls are growing to take down a Confederate soldier statue from the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Gov. Roy Cooper has urged the removal of Confederate monuments from public property around the state, though his goal would be difficult to achieve because of a 2015 state law prohibiting their removal. Duke is a private university and outside the scope of that law.”

The statue in this particular instance stood on the campus for roughly 85 years, “between Thomas Jefferson and poet Sidney Lanier.” University officials moved it into storage at 3 a.m.

“Duke has been affiliated since its founding with the United Methodist Church. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, said he sees the empty space formerly occupied by the Lee statue as creating a new opportunity to heal the ongoing racism problems confronting the country.”

Photo credit: Flickr