Vandals strike statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Duke University

Herald Sun – by Ray Gronberg

DURHAM – A vandal or vandals defaced the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee near the entrance of Duke Chapel.

The incident happened sometime overnight, Duke University spokesman Keith Lawrence said, adding that the campus police are investigating.

Lawrence declined to speculate about how the damage was inflicted. Parts of Lee’s face had been chipped off, including all of his nose.   

Pockmarks pepper the face of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, who stands among other historical figures in the portal to Duke Chapel on the Duke University campus in Durham.The statue’s face is high enough off the ground that most people would need a stepstool or small ladder to reach it.

The incident happened amid the ongoing controversy, heightened by events last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, about the presence of Confederate monuments on public property and other prominent locations. On Monday, protesters pulled down one such monument in downtown Durham; seven people face charges.

Another local Confederate memorial, UNC Chapel Hill’s “Silent Sam” statue on McCorkle Place, has been vandalized repeatedly in recent years, usually with spray paint.

Thursday’s incident is the first known vandalism targeting the Lee statue at Duke.

Duke officials said they’d increased security around the chapel, and will review a surveillance video from inside it.

Like their counterparts at UNC-CH, the Duke administration faces calls to deal with the statue. A Duke Divinity School alumnus, Ocracoke United Methodist Church paster Richard Bryant, argues that campus officials should begin making plans to remove or disavow it.

“Racist iconography has no place in a Christian church,” Bryant said earlier this week.

On Thursday, Duke President Vince Price said people should respect the university’s process for dealing with the issue.

“For an individual or group of individuals to take matters into their own hands and vandalize a house of worship undermines the right, protected in our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, of every Duke student and employee to participate fully in university life,” Price said. “To that end, earlier this week I began consulting with students, faculty, alumni and others about the ways in which we can use this issue to teach, learn and heal. Together – and only together – we will determine an appropriate course of action informed by our collective values.”

He added that Duke Chapel “is a place of sanctuary and refuge that belongs to every member of the Duke community.”

Unlike Silent Sam and Durham County’s Confederate memorial, Duke Chapel and the Lee statue are on private property.

The statue of Lee is one of 10 that ring the portal of the cathedral’s main entrance, and has been there since Duke Chapel’s construction. While Duke has long held the statues are symbolic and not meant to represent real people, the image of Lee is unmistakably that of the Confederacy’s top general.

Duke lore holds that the chapel’s builder, John Donnelly, chose the people to depict in consultation with a professor at Vanderbilt University.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648@rcgronberg

6 thoughts on “Vandals strike statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Duke University

  1. “Racist iconography has no place in a Christian church,” Bryant said earlier this week.

  2. Its on camera
    you know it is

    but they will only prosecute or further the investigation if its someone playing outside their game

  3. “While Duke has long held the statues are symbolic and not meant to represent real people,…”

    That makes no sense.

  4. Wow. Statues and protests are breaking out all over the country this week. Gee…it’s almost as if it was coordinated…..

    But that’s just conspiracy talk. I have to stop myself.

    Like JD used to say, it takes massive amounts of money, coordination and logistics to get all of this going simultaneously. We all know George Soros is the number one suspect on the list.

  5. Sorry, just have to repeat this:

    One other point I don’t seeing being mentioned concerning the taking down of the Confederate Monuments… Beyond anything political, those monuments are art, skillful art of quality materials, and they are antiquities. Another slap at greatness. What foot would kick in greatness? The foot of ignorance. I need a t-shirt that reads:  HEAL IGNORANCE.



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