In the latest addition to a list of historical monuments being removed from the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, a statue of pioneer and Revolutionary War officer George Rogers Clark left its pedestal at the University of Virginia (UVA) campus on July 11.
George Rogers Clark was born in Albemarle County, where UVA is located, in 1752. Dubbed “Conqueror of the Northwest,” he led a Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War and played a key role in securing the Northwest Territory from the British and their native allies.
The statue that commemorates Clark was erected in 1921 and commissioned by Paul Goodloe McIntire, after whom UVA’s art and music departments are named. McIntire also funded Charlottesville’s statues honoring Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
A crew removed statues of the Confederate commanders from the city on the morning of July 10. A statue depicting 19th-century explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea, came down hours later.
The removal of the George Rogers Clark statue is a part of the recommendations (pdf) from UVA’s Racial Equity Task Force, which was established in June 2020 in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing nationwide unrest. The task force is also calling for the renaming of school buildings, reparations for descendants of slaves, mandatory “anti-racism” education, and reconsideration of ties with local police departments.
“In ways different than the Lee and Jackson statues, the George Rogers Clark and the Lewis and Clark statues are also monuments to white supremacy,” read a UVA article cited by the task force in its report. “They are instrumental in creating and perpetuating the myth of brave white men conquering a supposedly unknown and unclaimed land.”
The push to remove the statue began in 2019, when a progressive activist circulated a petition calling it a “monument to genocide” that doesn’t reflect the values of the UVA campus community, and urging the administrators to move it “to a museum where it can be presented as a shameful memory.” Months later, the statue was found defaced with red paint, student newspaper The Cavalier Daily reported.
The movement to dismantle monuments that are deemed to have offensive historical connections is also targeting the statue of Thomas Jefferson, which sits in a rotunda at the center of the UVA campus. Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers born in Virginia, founded the university in 1819.