Duke University to leave empty space where Robert E. Lee statue stood


The space where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee once stood at Duke University’s famous chapel will remain permanently empty, the university’s president announced Thursday.

In a statement on Duke’s website, Vincent E. Price said the university planned to install a plaque in the foyer of Duke Chapel explaining why the statue was removed.

“It will provide a powerful statement about the past, the present and our values,” Price wrote. He added that the chapel’s dean, the Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, originally suggested keeping the space empty so that it “might represent ‘a hole that is in the heart of the United States of America, and perhaps in our own human hearts — that hole that is from the sin of racism and hatred of any kind.'”

Lee was among 10 figures depicted at or near the Gothic-style chapel’s entrance; the statue was vandalized and removed last year. The vandalism came days after deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, spawned by white nationalists protesting the removal of another Lee monument.

At the time, Price said that he’d ordered the statue’s removal “to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.”

In his message on Thursday, Price said he would recommend that the university “identify a location and appropriate form” to honor the first African-American students to attend Duke. The first black undergraduates to enroll at the private university did so in 1963.

Price said their “courage and initiative marked a turning point in Duke’s history, helping the university to grow into the diverse community that it is today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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