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Virginia’s woke 2021 time capsule that will be buried at base of toppled Robert E. Lee statue

A time capsule that has been in the base of the toppled Robert E. Lee Confederate statue in Richmond, Virginia, for 131 years will be replaced today with a metal box filled with woke 2021 artifacts including an expired COVID-vaccine, photos from Stop Asian Hate protests, BLM stickers and a ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ Pride badge. 

The new capsule contains 39 items that were proposed by residents of the city and selected by a group that included the state’s First Lady Pamela Northam. 

Northam, who filled the box up on Tuesday, will put it in the place of the old capsule today – a day after the statue of Lee was brought down and sawed in half in front of a cheering crowd of BLM protesters. 

The old, copper capsule is from 1887 – three years before the statue went up. It is believed to contain a silver dollar and relics from the Civil War including Confederate buttons. 

The 2021 time capsule includes a You Are Not Alone flyer found in the street after a George Floyd protest last year, a COVID mask worn by Virginia’s First Lady Pam Northam, photos from a Stop Asian Hate protest, a Virginia is for Lovers sticker, a  hand painted gourd rattle that was a gift from the Mattiponi and Pamunkey nations, a hip hop album. These artifacts will replace Confederate buttons and a silver dollar that are in an 1887 capsule in the base of the pedestal now 

A photograph by Marcus Ingram, left, is among the items being placed in a time capsule during a ceremony in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. It shows a black ballerina dancing at the base of the Lee statue after it was covered in graffiti

A photograph by Marcus Ingram, left, is among the items being placed in a time capsule during a ceremony in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. It shows a black ballerina dancing at the base of the Lee statue after it was covered in graffiti 

On Thursday, an 1890 time capsule from the base of the statue will be removed and replaced instead with one from 2021 that includes 39 artifacts including BLM stickers and Pride badges. The box was filled by Virginia First Lady Pam Northam last week

On Thursday, an 1890 time capsule from the base of the statue will be removed and replaced instead with one from 2021 that includes 39 artifacts including BLM stickers and Pride badges. The box was filled by Virginia First Lady Pam Northam last week

The time capsule will be placed at the site on Thursday

The time capsule will be placed at the site on Thursday 

Crews will use imaging tests to locate where exactly it is in the 40-foot concrete pedestal. 

They will start the process of finding it and then removing it at around 8am. 

THE 39 ARTIFACTS INSIDE RICHMOND’S 2021 TIME CAPSULE TO GO IN BASE OF ROBERT E. LEE STATUE 

1. ‘Ballerina at the Lee Statue’ photo taken on June 5th, 2020

2. Expired Vial of COVID-19 Pfizer Vaccine and CDC Vaccination Record Card 

3. National Geographic Special Issue ‘2020 in Pictures’ with cover image of Lee Monument in Richmond 

4. Black Lives Matter sticker 

5. Collection of Michael Paul Williams’ Pulitzer prize-winning columns on Monument Avenue

6. ‘Writing a new history’ Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Ghanian emissaries that participated in the 400th commemoration of 1619 at Point Comfort in Hampton

7. New Virginians” booklet with portraits of 24 immigrants

8. General Assembly Acts of Assembly from the 2020 Special Session

9. ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ pride pin and stickers 

10. The Protagonist poem in uncontracted Unified English Braille

11. Better Together LED Board coded by local schoolgirls 

12. VA Ratify ERA sash and ERA 2020 pins 

13. YOU ARE NOT ALONE pink heart print found on Richmond street after George Floyd protests in May 2020 

14. Election Officer Badge for 2020 General Election 

15. Monument Avenue Hip Hop Album by Noah-O and Taylor Whitelow 

16. Prayer beads left by a family member who passed away from COVID-19 

17. Danville Public Schools “First Lady” face mask, donated by Pam Northam 

18. Photos of the June 4, 2020 press conference announcing the removal of the Lee Statue 

19. Steel railroad spike talking piece found near African Ancestral Burial Ground 

20. Photos and fliers from Stop Asian Hate protests in May 2021 

21. Program and video from the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard featuring a keynote from former Congressman John Lewis

22. Letter describing Virginia University Union’s history and commitment to the Richmond community 

23. Photo of the Virginia State Police at 14th and F Street NW in Washington helping DC Metro Police Department patrol the city for unrest after the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 

24. Essays and poems from Arcadia Middle School students reflecting on the experience of being a student during a pandemic 

25. Senate Resolution Commending the League of Women’s Voters 

26. ‘Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Monument is Coming Down, Thanks to Me and Black Women Like Me’ July 10, 2021 Teen  Vogue article written and submitted by Zyahna Bryant 

27. Hard copy of the Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa Igloria’s work Dear America

28.  Gifts from the dedication ceremony from the Mattiponi and Pamunkey nations, hand painted gourd rattle and hand crafted earrings with sturgeon scale and beading

29. Booklet which outlines Virginia’s first One Virginia Plan for Inclusive Excellence 

30. Rumors of War Wasn’t a Rumor photo lithographic plate with oil-based ink & sealant 

31. Copy of the LGBTQ Richmond Walking Tour created by Blake McDonald 

32. First Presbyterian Church Session 2020 minutes approving the formation of a Dismantling Racism 

33.  Video of the One Commonwealth Many Virginians: Uniting in Interfaith Prayer for Healing and Unity event

34. Piece of tarp from the unveiling of Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War Statue and photos from the unveiling event

35.  Document describing selected student submissions from the Governor’s Inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest 

36. Post-Colonial Love Poem by 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winner Natalie Diaz 

37. New Legacy Postcard 

38. List of artifacts in the previous capsule as described in a Richmond Dispatch article 

39. Photo collage of individuals who contributed artifacts to the new time capsule and thank you note     

If they can’t get it out without removing too much of the concrete pedestal, they will stop. The new capsule will still be buried. 

A newspaper article from 1887 says that it also contains a photograph of ‘Lincoln lying in his coffin’ that was donated by Miss Pattie Leake, a school principal from a prominent Richmond family. 

Historians are dubious about whether it is an actual photograph of Lincoln in his coffin or a sketch or print of him lying in state. 

Virginia officials have not yet indicated what they will do with the 1887 capsule or its contents.  

In its place will go 39 artifacts that Northam says are more in keeping with the times. 

They include a photograph of a black ballerina dancing in front of the vandalized statue, which was covered in graffiti last summer after the killing of George Floyd, a copy of the National Geographic ‘2020 in Pictures’ issue with a photograph of the Lee monument on the cover, and a ‘Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission’. 

Governor Ralph Northam said the new capsule captures ‘the resilience and struggle of life, within a pandemic’.

Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity officer, said on Tuesday: ‘There’s more here in this capsule that brings us together and unites us as we walk toward the future, as opposed to this sort of polarizing conversation of what race is to Virginia.  

‘This idea of celebrating the Lost Cause? We’re beyond that. 

‘We get to tell a different story’.

The 21ft bronze statute of Lee atop a horse will now be sent to the Goochland Women’s Correctional Center in Virginia until officials know what to do with it permanently. It is the latest Confederate statue to have been toppled by the BLM movement amid protest from white residents who thought it should be preserved in history.  

Crews began hoisting the 21-foot-tall bronze likeliness of Lee on horseback about 8 a.m. EST and an hour later, it was on the ground, protected by a fence which kept crowds of spectators back.  

After being brought to the ground, workers began severing the top of the statue from the bottom using electric saws.  

Workers who were removing the statue gave the crowd a three-second countdown before they lifted the statue from its pedestal. 

The crowds of spectators cheered, whooped then broke into song, chanting ‘Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye’ as it was lowered to the ground. They also chanted ‘Black Lives Matter’.  

The 40ft concrete pedestal that it sat atop will remain in place for now, until officials decide what to do with it.  

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made the decision to remove the statue last year ten days after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

The statue was erected in 1890, 25 years after the end of the Civil War, and 20 years after Lee’s death. It was funded by the Lee Monument Commission, founded in 1886, which was led by Lee’s nephew, former Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee. 

In a statement after it was removed, Gov. Ralph Northam said: ‘This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity’. 

He added that it represented ‘400 years of history that we should not be proud of’.  

The statue had been fenced off and the roads surrounding it were closed at the start of the week in an effort to thwart crowds of protesters on both sides of the debate over removing it. 

Pedestrians watched the removal in a designated area on Monument Avenue.   

Northam announced plans to remove statue in June 2020, 10 days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. 

In anticipation of the statue coming down, the roads around it in Richmond were closed on Wednesday.  

The plans were stalled for more than a year by two lawsuits filed by residents opposed to its removal, but rulings last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way for the statue to be taken down.

It wasn’t immediately clear what would become of the sculpture, though some media reports indicated it would be stored until government officials determined how to dispose of it.

A copper time capsule that was placed at the cornerstone of the pedestal October 27, 1887, will be removed Thursday.  

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called the removals a sign of the time but some residents opposed it, claiming it went against 1890 deeds which protected the statue. 

‘This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it’s time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,’ he said in a news release. 

‘The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.’    

Library records indicated 37 local residents and businesses contributed about 60 objected related to the Confederacy to the historic cache. 

Governor Ralph Northam today announced the artifacts for the new time capsule, crafted by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale.  

‘The 1887 capsule we will remove this week offers us an incisive bite of time when the Lee Monument was erected,’ DiPasquale said in a press release. ‘Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us.

He added: ‘The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia.’ 

After the statue was removed on Wednesday, Northam said: ‘Finally—Virginia and Monument Avenue have moved beyond celebrating the Confederate insurrection. We can all look forward to seeing Virginia’s history remembered in a way that reflects who we are in the 21st century.’ 

While many saw the statue as an offensive glorification of the South´s slave-holding past, public officials had long resisted its removal, along with residents of Virginia who argued moving the monument would be akin to erasing history. 

After the statue is taken down, crews on Thursday will remove plaques from the base of the monument and will replace a time capsule that is believed to be inside.

After removing the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from its pedestal, workers saw off the torso in Richmond, Virginia, USA, 08 September 2021

After removing the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from its pedestal, workers saw off the torso in Richmond, Virginia, USA, 08 September 2021

The huge statue of General Robert E. Lee is removed from the pedestal where it has been for 131 years in a huge BLM victory on Wednesday morning 

The horse is removed from Monument Avenue on Wednesday afternoon after the top half was removed

The horse is removed from Monument Avenue on Wednesday afternoon after the top half was removed 

People celebrate as the statue of Robert E. Lee is lowered from its pedestal at Robert E. Lee Memorial during a removal September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia is removing the largest Confederate statue remaining in the U.S. following authorization by all three branches of state government, including a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia

Hundreds gathered to watch the statue going up in 1890. The Civil War ended 25 years earlier and Lee died in 1870. It was erected in 1890 at the commission of his nephew, the former Governor of Virginia, Fitzhugh Lee, and was paid for by the Lee Monument Association. There is believed to be a time capsule from 1887 buried in the base of the pedestal that will be removed today

Hundreds gathered to watch the statue going up in 1890. The Civil War ended 25 years earlier and Lee died in 1870. It was erected in 1890 at the commission of his nephew, the former Governor of Virginia, Fitzhugh Lee, and was paid for by the Lee Monument Association. There is believed to be a time capsule from 1887 buried in the base of the pedestal that will be removed today 

In Richmond, a city that was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, the Lee statue became the epicenter of last summer´s protest movement. The city has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd´s death.

The base of the statue was covered with vandalized after Floyd’s death. It was covered with graffiti, art work, and comments calling for racial equity and social justice. 

 Given that the statue is one of the largest and most recognizable Confederate monuments in the country, its removal is expected to draw a crowd and a heavy law enforcement presence.

The Lee statue was created by the internationally renowned French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie and is considered a masterpiece, according to its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, where it has been listed since 2007.

When the monument arrived in 1890 from France, an estimated 10,000 Virginians used wagons and rope to haul its pieces more than a mile to where it now stands. The statue was the first of five Confederate monuments to be erected on Richmond´s Monument Avenue, at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were over, but Jim Crow racial segregation laws were on the rise.

The Northam administration has said it would seek public input on the statue´s future. 

The pedestal will be left behind for now amid efforts to rethink the design of Monument Avenue. 

Some racial justice advocates don´t want it removed, seeing the graffiti-covered pedestal as a symbol of the protest movement that erupted after Floyd´s killing.

After Floyd´s death, the area around the statute became a hub for weeks of protests and occasional clashes between police and demonstrators. 

The pedestal has been covered by constantly evolving, colorful graffiti, with many of the hand-painted messages denouncing police and demanding an end to systemic racism and inequality. 


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