For Immediate Release
December 7, 2021
Media Contact: Dr. Andrea Douglas, Executive Director
Charlottesville, VA — The Charlottesville City Council voted to give the city’s recently-removed statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC). The local Black-led non-profit organization plans to melt down the monument, which was the flashpoint of the deadly August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, in order to transform its bronze material into a work of public art.
The JSAAHC’s public art project, called “Swords Into Plowshares,” will be informed by a community engagement process for Charlottesville residents to deliberate how the social value of inclusion can be represented through art and public space. The JSAAHC is extending an invitation to the Charlottesville community to participate in these forums, which will be organized by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Engagement and Negotiation. The schedule of engagement events is slated to be released in January.
The Jefferson School has produced a brief video to describe its vision for “Swords Into Plowshares,” and has created a fundraising campaign to encourage grassroots support for the project. “Swords Into Plowshares” has already raised $590,000 from the University of Virginia Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project, Virginia Humanities, and the Open Society Foundations.
“Our hope with ‘Swords into Plowshares’ is to create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful that can be more reflective of our entire community’s social values,” explained JSAAHC Executive Director Dr. Andrea Douglas. “We’re giving people opportunities to engage with our own narratives and our own histories. This project offers a road map for other communities to do the same.”