Late Sunday night, 10 days before classes were scheduled to start, workers at the University of Texas at Austin began removing multiple Confederate statues from a prominent grass mall on campus.
The statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan were being removed because they depict parts of American history that "run counter to the university's core values," university President Greg Fenves wrote in an e-mail to the campus community just before 11 p.m. Sunday. A statue of former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg was also removed.
"We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus," he wrote. "As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all."
The removal of the statues comes about a week after unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia surrounding the removal of Confederate statues in that college town. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists protested those statues' removal, and clashed violently with counter-protesters. One person died in the violence.
"These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," he said.
A UT-Austin spokesman said in a text message that the university deliberately chose to remove the statues in the middle of the night "for public safety and to minimize disruption to the community."
The three Confederate statues will be relocated to the Briscoe Center for American History. The statue of Hogg "will be considered for re-installation at another campus site," Fenves said.