AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sunday night University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves issued a statement calling for the removal of the three remaining Confederate monuments on the UT Austin campus.
Those statues depict John H. Reagan (Confederate Postmaster General), Albert S. Johnston (a Confederate general), and Robert E. Lee ( commander of the Confederate army). All are located on the South Mall, a central area on campus where many students will go to walk, study and visit.
As of 3 a.m. Monday morning, all three Confederate statues had been removed. A fourth statue of former Texas Gov. James Hogg was also removed, leaving George Washington’s statue alone on the South Mall.
The removal was scheduled overnight and barricades were installed for safety reasons, UTPD said.
UT Chief Communications Officer Gary Susswein added the removal work was done without advanced warning for public safety reasons. It was “also to minimize the disruption to campus.”
The action was too fast for some. Mark Peterson doesn’t attend UT but ran up to campus when his friends told him what was happening.
“If history is being erased, at least I should be there,” said Peterson, disappointed in UT.
“It seems like it was a reactionary decision. It seems like it was a fast decision because of the last couple weeks. And I also feel there wasn’t enough talking to the students,” said Elizabeth Nelson Monday morning. She just found out four months ago she was related to General Robert E. Lee. She’ll miss his figure on campus.
“I used to walk by his statue every morning and it was like, it was kind of meant to be, that I’m here,” said Nelson.
For others, like Felipe Garza, this action was a long time coming.
“It always bothered me to be honest with you,” said Garza. He graduated from UT-Austin in the 1980s.
“History will never get removed. History is in our minds. These are just symbols of history. In this case, history of slavery and the Confederacy,” said Garza.
President Fenves noted in his statement that after white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s protested the removal of a confederate statue on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville last week, now more than ever, “that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”
President Fenves said that over the past few days student leaders, students, faculty members, staff members and alumni have shared their thoughts with him about the statues. Following those conversations and a review of the 2015 task force report, he decided to relocate the remaining four statues.
“The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize” Fenves said in his statement. “Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
He said the statues depicting Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg are now being removed from the Main Mall. The statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan will be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center. Additionally, the statue of James Hogg (governor of Texas from 1891 to 1895) may be re-installed at another campus site. UT spokesperson J.B. Bird clarified that Hogg was not a member of the Confederacy but that the group statuary is one exhibit, “so it all goes together.”
“The university will be looking for a new home on campus for the Hogg statue,” Bird said.
Following the statues’ removal, Austin Mayor Steve Adler released a statement saying, “Putting these statues in a history museum appropriately puts this past where it belongs.”
President Fenves worked with a task force following the 2015 church shooting in South Carolina to evaluate the six statues installed by George Littlefield, a confederate veteran and regent, on the UT mall. Those statues depicted four confederate figures, including Jefferson Davis whose statue was removed from the main mall in 2015 and later put on display at the Briscoe Center. The Briscoe Center is home to one of the largest historical collections related to the South, the Civil War, and Slavery.
At the time President Greg Fenves stated that Davis had few ties to Texas and didn’t fit in the category of the other statues on the main mall.
Fenves also said then in regards to Robert E Lee’s statue remaining at the mall that Lee’s “complicated legacy to Texas and the nation should not be reduced to his role in the civil War.”
UT Austin student government Saturday announced an online survey to poll students about their opinions of the statues, with the intention of sharing those results with university leadership.
UT student body president Alejandrina Guzman sent out the following Tweet overnight: