Virginia is one step closer to getting statue of civil rights icon Barbara Johns in the U.S. Capitol

Posted at 10:02 AM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 10:24:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Efforts to install a statue of Civil Rights icon Barbara Johns in the U.S. Capitol moved one step closer on Thursday.

The commission in charge of the work met at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture (VMHC) and selected a sculptor to begin negotiations to design and build the statue.

At the U.S. Capitol, each state is allowed two statues in Statuary Hall. One of Virginia's statues is of George Washington, while for over a century the other one was of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly voted to replace Lee and the commission picked Johns as his replacement. Lee's statue was removed from the Capitol a few days later and is in the possession of the VMHC.

In 1951, Johns, then 16, led a student walkout to protest the poor conditions at the all-Black high school she attended in Farmville. Their cause eventually became a part of the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court declaring school segregation unconstitutional.

That school is now the Robert Russa Moton Museum and was recently designated as a National Park Service Affiliate Area.

Officials with the commission said the identity of the sculptor will not be identified until a contract is agreed to, at which time it will also be possible to project a timeline for the statue's completion, installation and unveiling. However, a contract cannot be finalized until the needed funding has been carried over from last year's budget, which requires the governor's approval.

When the statue is installed, Johns would become the second Black woman in Statuary Hall after Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's statue was unveiled this past week for Florida. Johns, however, would be the only teenager, as her family indicated they wanted her statue to reflect the age she was when she led the walkout.

The commission official said once a contract is in place, the commission will meet with the sculptor to discuss details "such as pose, wardrobe, expression, gestures, etc."



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