December 22, 2020
Former Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam
Virginia’s Commission on Historical Statues in the United States Capitol has voted to recommend civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns to represent Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection, replacing the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
“On April 23, 1951, sixteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns led a student walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, protesting the overcrowded and inferior conditions of the all-Black school compared to those of White students at nearby Farmville High School. Her actions garnered the support of NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill who took up her cause and filed a lawsuit that would later be one of five cases the United States Supreme Court reviewed in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka when it declared segregation unconstitutional. Historians consider Johns’ protest a pivotal moment that launched the desegregation movement in America.”
Governor Northam stated in his December 16 announcement, ““I am proud that her statue will represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where her idealism, courage, and conviction will continue to inspire Virginians, and Americans, to confront inequities and fight for meaningful change now and for generations to come.”
“Since 1909, America’s first president George Washington has stood along with Confederate general Robert E. Lee as Virginia’s contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection, where each state is entitled to two statues. If approved by the General Assembly, Johns would complement the Washington statue and be the only teenager represented in the collection.”
The Robert E. Lee statue was removed from the National Statuary Hall on December 21, 2020. Dates for the commissioning and erection of Virginia’s new statue have not been set.