Posted on June 6, 2022

West Point Expected to Be Ordered to Take Down Portrait of Robert E. Lee

Lara Seligman, Politico, June 3, 2022

For 70 years, the slave-owning Confederate general Robert E. Lee has stared down at West Point cadets from a massive portrait in the academy’s library, a slave guiding his horse in the background.

But that portrait could be coming down.

The commission that was established to rename military bases that honor Confederate generals is expected to recommend that West Point remove the 20-foot portrait of Lee in his gray Confederate uniform, according to two people familiar with the group’s deliberations.

The commander of the Confederate Army, who served as superintendent from Sept. 1, 1852, to March 31, 1855, before breaking up with the Union, has a long and complicated history with West Point. His name and likeness are all over the New York campus, from street signs to another portrait hanging in the dining hall. But the portrait in the library has drawn particular scrutiny.

Other depictions of Lee as superintendent, before the Civil War, are more of a gray area. One portrait, gifted to the academy by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1931 and displayed in the dining hall, depicts Lee in his blue U.S. military uniform.

The commission is expected to recommend that West Point — which is now led by the first Black superintendent in its history, Army Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams — remove anything that commemorates Lee in association with the Confederacy, one of the people said. Anything “historic” that commemorates Lee when he was superintendent may remain. {snip}


As of October 2019, 63 percent of cadets were white, while only 12 percent identified as Black.

The creation of the commission was one of the reasons then-President Donald Trump vetoed the 2021 NDAA in December 2020, resulting in Congress’ first override of his presidency. Trump gave the commencement address at West Point in June 2020 amid controversy over renaming the bases and accusations that he was politicizing the armed forces.

After the override in January 2021, the Trump administration named four individuals to the commission, including several loyalists to the former president. President Joe Biden’s Defense secretary, Austin, removed all of these members.

Retired Adm. Michelle Howard, the Navy’s first female four-star admiral and the first Black woman to command a Navy ship, now serves as chair, and the group’s members include retired Gen. Thomas Bostick, the first Black graduate of West Point to serve as chief of engineers of the U.S. Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.