LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) — The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) said it will not take down its Confederate monuments. But the military college in Lexington said it will change some of its longstanding traditions.
The Roanoke Times reports that retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III wrote about the Confederate monument issue in a letter to the VMI community on Wednesday.
Peay wrote that VMI’s primary focus has been to celebrate the honor and integrity of those associated with the institute. He said the school’s honoring of its history does not “in any way condone racism, much less slavery.”
Multiple buildings are named for Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as well as other alumni and faculty who fought for the Confederacy. A statue of Jackson also stands in front of the barracks.
Peay said changes will include reorienting flagpoles surrounding the Jackson statue and centering them at the new barracks. The school also will relocate an oath ceremony from a battlefield where 10 VMI cadets died fighting for the Confederacy to school grounds.
VMI also will have classes in diversity training.
Black graduates have been speaking on social media out about racism at VMI and the need for changes, including removing the Jackson statue.
Michael Purdy, a 1999 graduate, said the new proposals are a strong move toward the future. But he said he hopes school leaders will reconsider their decision about the monuments and building names because he fears VMI will fail to attract diverse cadets.
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