Descendants of Confederate leaders say Civil War statues can come down amid fierce Charlottesville racism row

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Statues of Confederate leaders across the USA should be removed, their descendants said amid a ferocious row which sparked violence in the city of Charlottesville.

Tensions over the relevance of Civil War monuments came to a head last weekend at a white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Virginia in protest at a plan to take down a statue of Confederate army commander and slave-owner Robert E. Lee.

Three people died, including a woman who was killed when an attacker ploughed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters during the fierce clash.

The row over the historical statues continued to flare up as Donald Trump appeared to side with the view that the statues should be preserved, tweeting he was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart”. 

The statue of Confederate army general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Getty Images)

But descendants of Stonewall Jackson agreed they would be happy to remove the statues of their great-great-grandfather while relatives of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee would allow them to be moved to a museum, the New York Times reported.

Jack and Warren Christian, who are both great-great-grandsons of Confederate army general Stonewall Jackson, penned an open letter in which they said they are “ashamed of the monument” in Richmond, Virginia.

What was the Confederacy?

The Confederacy was a republic made up of 11 states in the southern United States which broke away from the union in 1860-61.

These states’ way of life was based on slavery and white supremacy, and the southern governments felt it was under threat by US President Abraham Lincoln.

Civil War erupted when the US refused to accept the South’s secession. It ended in 1865 with a victory for the North, preserving the US as one nation and ending slavery.

According to the New York Times, Jack Christian refuted the view that monuments should be kept for history. The two descendants called the statues “overt symbols of racism and white supremacy”.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, a great-great-grandson of president of the Confederate States Jefferson Davis, told CNN that statues should be moved to a museum if “a large majority of the public” find them offensive.

The great-great-grandson of army general Robert E. Lee, called Robert E. Lee V, also told CNN he would not object if the local community wished to remove the statue.

Mr Lee said: “Maybe it’s appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard.

A monument of Jefferson Davis being taken down in New Orleans in 2004. (Getty Images)

“He [Robert E. Lee] never would have tolerated the hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK or neo-Nazis,” Mr Lee V said of his famous forefather.

The comments follow remarks made by US President Trump at a press conference earlier this week, when he asked: “Where does it stop?”

“George Washington was a slave owner… So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?”

“So, you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

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