Swords Into Plowshares

Swords Into Plowshares is an innovative project to melt down the statue of Robert E. Lee that formerly stood in one of Charlottesville's public parks and use the bronze to make a new work of public art. You can read our proposal and 28 letters of support here

Confederate sympathizers' lawsuit aims to take Charlottesville’s Lee statue away from Jefferson School African American Heritage Center


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What is Swords Into Plowshares?

Swords Into Plowshares is an innovative project to melt down the statue of Robert E. Lee that formerly stood in one of Charlottesville's public parks and use the bronze to make a new work of public art.

The artistic transformation will be informed by a six-month community engagement process where residents of Charlottesville can participate in forums to help determine how the social value of inclusion can be represented through art and public space.

We will then commission an artist of national significance to work with our community to design and create new bronze sculptural art that we will display publicly in Charlottesville by 2026.

How it started


In 2016, a high school student named Zyahna Bryant created a petition calling for the removal of the Lee statue. It gathered significant local support and City Council eventually authorized the statue's removal. The Lee statue erupted from a local to an international symbol of white supremacy when, in August 2017, neo-Nazi rioters descended on Charlottesville to halt the removal.


The violence that engulfed our city became synonymous with globally-resurgent white nationalism. Many were injured and a woman named Heather Heyer was killed, when a Nazi-sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of racial justice demonstrators.


The Lee statue has been a singular source of harm to the Charlottesville community. We believe that racist symbols are not immutable parts of our cultural heritage. “Swords into Plowshares” offers Charlottesville–and the nation–the chance to transform our trauma into renewal through art. 


In the news

The Conversation

Apr 27, 2022 by C-Ville

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What’s happened to the city’s racist statues?
The Conversation

Feb 15, 2022 by The Conversation

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Old statues of Confederate generals are slowly disappearing – will monuments honoring people of color replace them?

Oct 23, 2021 by The Washington Post

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Black museum suggests melting down Robert E. Lee statue at heart of Charlottesville violence to make new art

Oct 22, 2021 by NPR

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A Black museum asks to melt Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee statue to create new art
Huff Post

Oct 18, 2021 by The Huffington Post

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Black Heritage Center Submits Proposal To Melt Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Statue
Associated Press

Oct 21, 2021 by The Associated Press

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Museum proposes melting Lee statue to make new artwork
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The statue was removed from a public park in July 2021. In October, Charlottesville City Council requested proposals from organizations interested in taking possession of the statue. You can read our proposal and 28 letters of support here. This proposal was covered by national news syndicates such as the Washington PostNPRHuffPost, the Associated PressHarper's Bazaar, and the New Yorker


About the coalition


We are a coalition of Charlottesville-based organizations spearheaded by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. The coalition includes the Democracy Initiative's Memory Project at the University of VirginiaVirginia Humanities, and the artist-run gallery Visible Records.


We have additional support from Descendants of Enslaved Communities at UVA, the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, as well as local clergy groups, arts organizations, educators, and activists. 

Where we go from here

  1. Spread the word! Share this project with other people who are excited about fighting racism and white supremacy. 
  2. If you are an artist, creator, or business and would like to support our project, please donate here.
  3. If you like this project and would like to get involved in a more substantial way, please contact us here.
  4. Take the survey to let us know your ideas here: survey