Update, 9 p.m.: Bronx Community College President Thomas Isekenegbe released a statement this evening announcing that the school will remove the busts of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from the Hall of Fame For Great Americans on its campus.
“For 60 years, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York has remained committed to reflecting its values of diversity and inclusion in all of its actions and statements,” the statement reads. “Embracing difference includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcomed, and valued.” The statement does not indicate a timetable for when the busts will be removed.
Following this weekend’s marches, protests, and attacks at a “Unite the Right” rally led by white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, New York City lawmakers are doubling down on their efforts to remove monuments honoring Confederate generals throughout the five boroughs.
As politicians continue to rally to rename two Bay Ridge streets that are named for Confederate generals Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee, Gothamist has uncovered two busts of Jackson and Lee at Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame For Great Americans.
The statues were supported and funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the same pro-Confederate culture group who in 1912 installed a plaque commemorating Robert E. Lee’s life in Brooklyn. That plaque was removed today, and if New York’s elected officials who have commented on the BCC busts have their way, those will follow suit.
“Clearly Confederate Army Generals are not great Americans and have no business being part of this display,” City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told Gothamist in an email.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. also issued a lengthy statement condemning the statues:
Our motto in this borough is ‘ne cede malis,’—‘yield not to evil.’ And we will not, no matter how old that evil might be. Our diversity is our strength, not just here in The Bronx but across our city and our nation. In celebration of that diversity and united in our outright rejection of the hatred that we have seen on display in recent days—be it an act of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville or the vitriol emanating from the White House—the busts of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson must be removed from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans on the campus of Bronx Community College.
Their inclusion at this location is especially galling: there is nothing great about two men who committed treason against the United States to fight to keep the institution of slavery intact. A more appropriate location for these statues would be a museum, such as the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, where they could be presented in a historical context rather than venerated. But they should not stay in The Bronx any longer.
The bust of Lee was installed in 1923 and Jackson’s followed in 1957. According to Gothamist, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans dates back to the late 1800s. The subjects of its 98 busts were nominated by the public, then a group of 100 voters went on to decide which busts would be made.
Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose district includes Bronx Community College, reinforces the opinions of Mark-Viverito and Diaz: “The time has long passed for these statues to have been removed."