Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery is the nation’s official Robert E. Lee Memorial, but Virginia elected leaders and D.C.’s congressional delegate have introduced legislation to strip the Confederate general’s name from the official name of the historic site.
Bills in the House and Senate that would remove the designation were partially inspired by requests of descendants of both Robert E. Lee and people who were enslaved there, the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, of Virginia, said in a statement.
“If we are serious about ending racial disparities, we need to stop honoring those who fought to protect slavery,” Kaine said. “I’m proud to be part of the effort to rename Arlington House, and am going to keep fighting for the kinds of reforms we need to create a society that delivers liberty and justice for all.”
The National Park Service webpage for Arlington House says Lee is honored for specific reasons, including his role in promoting peace and reunion after the Civil War.
If passed by both chambers, the new name of the memorial would be the Arlington House National Historic Site.
The mansion where Lee lived before the Civil War sits on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
Rep. Don Beyer noted that Lee himself opposed erecting Confederate monuments, and that choosing Lee’s home property as a national cemetery site was intended to punish his rebellion against the lawful U.S. government.
“As our country and our Commonwealth grapple with the history of racism and slavery and engage in a long-overdue reexamination of public symbols, we have an opportunity to make it clear that we do not revere Confederate leaders or condone the enslavement of human beings,” Beyer said in a statement.
Virginia Reps. Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Jennifer Wexton and D.C.’s Eleanor Holmes Norton co-introduced the legislation in the House.