Virginia Military Institute, which is undergoing a review and administrative turnover due to allegations of racism at the public military college, will relocate a statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general and slave owner, the institute’s Board of Visitors announced Thursday.
The statue of Jackson is currently located in front of the student barracks and will be moved to “an appropriate location,” potentially to the Battlefield of New Market, where about 250 VMI cadets fought alongside Confederate forces in 1864 during the Civil War and 10 were killed, according to a press release from the institute. The institute will also establish a permanent diversity officer position and office, and the board will create a diversity and inclusion committee, the release said.
The changes follow Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s order of a third-party review of VMI’s culture, policies and allegations of racism at the institute that were reported by The Washington Post. The institute’s 17-year superintendent, retired general J. H. Binford Peay III, resigned Monday. Peay had previously praised Jackson and defended the statue. The press release called the statue’s relocation a “bold and unanimous action to move VMI forward,” and J. William Boland, president of the Board of Visitors, said he was “proud” of the changes.
“VMI, like all aspects of society, must honestly address historical inequities and be intentional about creating a better future,” Boland said in the release. “We care deeply about the individual experiences of all of our cadets and alumni. Our mission is just as important today, and tomorrow, as it has been for 181 years.”