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NEW YORK (AP) – At least 160 public Confederate symbols were taken down or moved from public spaces in 2020, according to a new count the Southern Poverty Law Center shared with The Associated Press ahead of releasing it.
The Montgomery, Alabama-based law center, which keeps a raw count of nearly 2,100 statues, symbols, placards, buildings and public parks dedicated to the Confederacy, released the latest figures from its “Whose Heritage?” database on Tuesday. It has been tracking a movement to take down the monuments since 2015, when a white supremacist entered a South Carolina church and killed several black parishioners.
One of the statues removed was of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Capitol. In its place, there will be a statue of Virginia’s Barbara Johns, a 16-year-old black girl who staged a strike in 1951 over unequal conditions at her segregated high school in Farmville. Her actions led to court-ordered integration of public schools across the U.S., via the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
Each state legislature can choose up to two representatives to honor in the Capitol’s collection. In December, a state commission recommended replacing Lee’s statue with a statue of Johns. Supporters told the AP that Virginia’s legislature has nearly finalized her elevation alongside George Washington.
The SPLC says there are 704 Confederate monuments still standing across the U.S. And taking some of them down may be difficult, particularly in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee—states where lawmakers have enacted policies protecting these monuments.
The movement to remove these symbols from public spaces became part of the national reckoning on racial injustice following the killing last May of George Floyd, a black man who died in custody of Minneapolis police.