New Report: Worst Monument in Charlottesville Can Be Removed

A new report released July 1, 2019, concludes that a major monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, can be legally removed.

The monument, which depicts George Rogers Clark threatening Native American men and a woman holding an infant, is not covered by a Virginia state law that forbids removing war monuments, due to the date of the monument’s erection and its ownership by the University of Virginia rather than the County of Albemarle.

George Rogers Clark said that he would have liked to “see the whole race of Indians extirpated” and that he would “never spare Man woman or child of them on whom he could lay his hands.” Clark wrote a statement to the various Indian nations in which he threatened “Your Women & Children given to the Dogs to eat.”

Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, depicted in a smaller statue nearby in front of the Rotunda building, when he was Governor of Virginia, sent George Rogers Clark west to attack Native Americans, writing that the goal “should be their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes or Illinois river.” Clark killed the captured and destroyed the crops of those he was sent by Jefferson to exterminate or remove. Clark later unsuccessfully proposed further military expeditions to Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison in order to demonstrate “that we are always able to crush them at pleasure.”

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to James Ryan, President of the University of Virginia, that reads:

Remove the statue of George Rogers Clark engaged in genocide to a museum where it can be presented as a shameful memory.

The new report reviews several alternatives for the monument, including destruction, removal, the placing of a new monument in front to block it from view, and leaving the monument in place but contextualizing it:

“There is considerable space available on every side of the monument. It would be possible to construct several new memorials around this one. These new memorials might tell various parts of the story, or perspectives of the story, of the ‘conquering of the Northwest.’ One memorial might depict Thomas Jefferson sending Clark on his mission, and quote the instructions he was given. Another might depict the execution of prisoners, another the use of rape as a weapon of war, another the burning of crops, another the destruction of villages, another the struggles for survival by the nations devastated and displaced by Virginia’s past imperialism. Quotes from Clark could be included on some of the new memorials. The possibilities are endless. The point is that the University of Virginia is in possession of the knowledge and the funding to wisely and beautifully communicate opposition to genocide, rather than glorification of it, without challenging any law or even facing any accusation of ‘destroying history!’”

In the end, the report makes the following recommendation:

“The University and the City should create a public process for considering the proper fate of the George Rogers Clark monument. Among those consulted should be representatives of the nations attacked by George Rogers Clark. Also among those consulted should be young people, who will be most influenced by the decision and live with it the longest.”

The report is available as a PDF and on a webpage.

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