The Loudoun Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is requesting its Confederate statue in Leesburg be returned.
The request comes as more counties and cities across the country are taking steps to remove the statues in the wake of nationwide protests for racial equity and reform. While recognizing leaders in the Confederacy, the statues in Virginia have also been connected to oppression and institutional racism by critics.
The Leesburg statue, erected in 1908, rests in front of the Loudoun County Courthouse and can be seen at the corner of North King and East Market streets. Virginia is home to more than 200 public memorials to the Confederacy, according to state officials.
Attorney Stephen Price, who is representing the UDC in this case, said in a letter, “In recent public statements by members of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, a clear majority has expressed their support for its removal. Consequently, the Loudoun Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy have directed me to request the statue’s return.”
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors during its July 7 meeting is expected to consider how to remove the Confederate statue in Leesburg. The Virginia General Assembly voted earlier this year to give localities the ability to remove, relocate or contextualize the monuments in their communities. The law went into effect July 1.
County leaders have long been torn over whether to keep or remove Leesburg’s Confederate statue, but now just one of the nine county supervisors opposes its removal.
Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), who plans to bring the item to the board, said supervisors will decide on the chapter’s request at the July 7 business meeting. If the board accepts the request, Randall said supervisors will have to discuss who will cover the costs for removal.
“The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Randall told the Times-Mirror. “History proves the Civil War was fought because Confederate states wanted the right to own human beings. They believed this so fervently, they chose to secede from the United States and declare war on our nation. Their five-year cause resulted in the bloodiest war in our nation’s history and their ultimate defeat.”
She added, “The fact that God has blessed me to be the Chair-at-Large of Loudoun County at this moment, to receive this letter from the United Daughters of the Confederacy requesting the return of the Confederate [statue] that sits on Loudoun’s courthouse grounds, is truly remarkable. For almost two decades, I have argued forcefully that a monument to the Confederacy sitting on public property, paid for with taxpayer dollars, is unacceptable.”
Catoctin Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R), the only county supervisor against removing the statue, said on Tuesday the chapter’s letter made for a “very sad day” in Loudoun’s history. He said the purpose of the statue is “to erect a monument to the memory of the Confederate dead,” quoting the letter from United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“It saddens me that we as a citizenry of Loudoun County seem incapable as a people to understand that the cultural sins of 160 years ago are completely different than who we are as a people today,” Kershner said. “Let’s be clear: Loudoun County is not a hotbed of racism. One only needs to look to the composition of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. In a county that has a 7.7 percent African American population, 33 percent of the Board of Supervisors is represented by three African Americans, an outstanding achievement.”
Kershner continued, “The North fought to join our nation 160 years ago and here we sit in 2020 witnessing actions that will divide us as a county. Loudoun County’s removal of this statue places Loudoun into the short-sighted and very dangerous narrative of hiding our history, which is what Marxist societies practice. History does not always belong in a museum, history book, or on a battlefield. It belongs in locations where people can see and learn and understand all history good and bad ...”