The historic Virginia Military Institute (VMI), located in the southwestern Virginia town of Lexington, said it will relocate its statue of Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from its campus after its superintendent resigned after a race-related scandal.
Former VMI superintendent, retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, resigned after racism allegations surfaced at the institution. Peay’s offenses appeared to be his previous praise for Jackson’s military prowess and leadership failure to correct the institution’s allegedly racist culture.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, issued a third-party review of VMI’s policies and culture related to charges that the institution did not do enough to correct racist conduct and behavior. Some of the allegations included black students experiencing hostile and insensitive statements, such as one black student allegedly being told that he would be lynched.
VMI’s Board of Visitors ordered Jackson’s statue to be moved from its location in front of the campus’s historic barracks, potentially to the nearby U.S. Civil War battlefield at New Market, Virginia. The institution announced that it will install a permanent diversity officer and diversity and inclusion committee. The board also approved the creation of diversity initiatives to focus on gender and the adoption of a diversity hiring plan.
Jackson was a Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War and was an instructor at VMI prior to the outbreak of the war. Two hundred fifty-seven VMI cadets fought with Confederate forces at the Battle of New Market in 1864, which was a Confederate victory after the VMI cadets charged the Union position. Ten cadets died during or after the battle due to wounds, and forty-five additional cadets were wounded. The VMI cadets were not under Jackson’s command, as Jackson had died of pneumonia in 1863.