A statue of Robert E. Lee was vandalized at Duke University sometime in the night between Wednesday and Thursday.
The statue of Lee is one of 10 statues that adorn the Duke chapel, which are drawn from figures in Protestant and Methodist traditions, as well as the American South. The vandalism -- the statue’s face was damaged, and its nose chipped off -- comes as tensions are rising around Confederate monuments and white supremacy’s role in America in the past and the present.
“Duke Chapel is a place of sanctuary and refuge that belongs to every member of the Duke community,” Duke President Vincent E. Price said in a statement. “Each of us deserves a voice in determining how to address the questions raised by the statues of Robert E. Lee and others, and confront the darker moments in our nation’s history.”
The vandalism at Duke is the first known defacing of Lee’s statue, and the incident is being investigated by the university.
The statue has been somewhat controversial since the chapel was finished and it was unveiled in the 1930s, and has long been a subject of discussion -- and outside pressure -- for the administration.
Lee’s statue at Duke is one of many icons and monuments dedicated to known racists or members of the Confederacy at universities across the U.S., which have served as locations for protesters and counterprotesters, as well as targets for vandalism, over the years.