President Donald Trump’s tweeted complaints to the contrary, the general consensus following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia is the same. Statues and monuments celebrating Confederate-era heads of state, military leaders and other public figures are coming down in droves, and the Austin main campus for the University of Texas is the latest to join in on the national trend. Late Sunday evening, workers removed three such statues (and a forth, unrelated one) during a somewhat covert nighttime operation not unlike the recent one in Baltimore.
Statues of Confederate Army Generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston, and Confederate politician John Reagan — who resigned the U.S. House to join the Confederacy’s fledgling government — were removed by work crews under the cover of darkness on Sunday. According to the New York Times, a fourth statue of Stephen Hogg, the 20th governor of Texas was also removed from its pedestal — albeit for reasons completely unrelated to the ideological ones behind the Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues. (The Hogg statue was part of a “broader exhibit.”)
In a letter to the University community, President Greg Fenves cited the events in Charlottesville, saying, “Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism”:
“The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history,” Mr. Fenves wrote. “But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.”
In a report by The Texas Tribune, a university spokesperson explained the statues were removed overnight “for public safety and to minimize disruption to the community.” Two years prior, a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was removed from the Austin campus after admitted white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.