James Muwakkil, President of the Lee County, FL chapter of the NAACP, has petitioned the local commission to remove a portrait of General Robert E. Lee from their chambers. The reason? Muwakkil claims the portrait symbolizes racism.
Lee County was named after military hero Robert E. Lee just 22 years after the close of the ware between the states, The Washington Times notes. The portrait has hung in the County Commission chambers for years now.
“That painting is a symbol of racism,” Muwakkil wrote in a letter, “It’s a symbol of divisiveness, and it doesn’t unify Lee County. It divides Lee County.
The petition to remove the painting will force a public hearing on the issues, state Commissioner Larry Kiker. Kiker also told the News-Press that he is looking for “thoughtful conversation based upon the historical value” of the painting, and why it was hung to begin with. The News-Press reported that Virginia assisted Lee County in obtaining the painting in 1939.
Lee is seen as a loyal hero in Virginia, because he played an important role in the Confederate army. He is not recognized for his position on slavery.
In fact, Lee did many things that were unconventional during his time, including allowing his wife and daughter to run and maintain an illegal school for slaves on their plantation. Despite Lee’s important role in Virginia history, the NAACP chapter petitions the county to take action repeatedly.
The last time they did so was in 2007, when they asked the commission to hang a painting of President Abraham Lincoln next to the portrait. The measure ultimately failed.
What do you think? Is the portrait a symbol of racism or a tribute to a hero?