Virginia’s Woke 2021 Time Capsule: Box Filled with BLM Stickers, Pride Badges, COVID Vaccine Vial and Photos from Protests
Jennifer Smith, Daily Mail, September 9, 2021
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.
Crews started looking for it at 8am on Thursday but after four hours, they still hadn’t been able to find it.
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.
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.