Confederate memorial set to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery this week, officials say

Dec 17, 2023, 7:11 PM

The Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is set to be removed this week. (Calla Kess...

The Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is set to be removed this week. (Calla Kessler, The Washington Post/Getty Images)

(Calla Kessler, The Washington Post/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Confederate Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is set to be removed this week, officials said.

Arlington National Cemetery spokesperson Kerry Meeker told CNN in an email Sunday they anticipate the monument to be completely removed by Dec. 22.

The move is the latest action in the removal of Confederate symbols from US military facilities set forth by a Department of Defense directive issued last October.

The Army, which operates the cemetery, said on the cemetery’s website the process to prepare for the monument’s removal, which included an environmental assessment, was completed Saturday. The evaluation found removing it “will not have significant environmental impacts,” according to officials.

Officials said they will remove the bronze elements, which will be relocated.

Meeker said crews installed safety fencing around the monument and added the surrounding landscape, graves and headstones will be protected during the monument’s removal.

Cemetery officials said the statue’s granite base and foundation will stay at the site to “avoid disturbing surrounding graves.”

According to the cemetery’s website, Confederate remains weren’t allowed to be buried at Arlington until 1900, 35 years after the Civil War ended.

“By 1902, 262 Confederate bodies were interred in a specially designated section, Section 16,” the cemetery said. The total is now more than 400, according to the cemetery website.

According to the cemetery, the statue, which was designed by American sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel and unveiled in 1914, depicts a bronze woman atop a 32-foot-tall pedestal wearing a crown adorned with olive leaves, holding a laurel wreath, a plow stock, and a pruning hook. At her feet, a Biblical inscription reads, “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks,” the cemetery said.

Other figures on the monument include a Black woman depicted as a “Mammy,” carrying an infant of a white officer, and a Black man following his owner to war, according to the cemetery.

Not everyone is on board with the decision of the statue’s removal.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, has voiced his disappointment, said his spokeswoman Macaulay Porter, adding the governor plans to relocate it to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the Shenandoah Valley, calling it a “fitting backdrop for Ezekiel’s legacy.”

Last September, the U.S. Congressional Naming Commission recommended the Confederate statue at the cemetery be removed.

The changes at Arlington National Cemetery come a year after West Point removed several Robert E. Lee items, which included a portrait and a stone bust of the Confederate general.

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Confederate memorial set to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery this week, officials say