The battle over the University of Texas at Austin’s Jefferson Davis statue has come to an end. University president Greg Fenves announced on Thursday that it will soon be removed from Main Mall, an area at the center of campus. The statue is one of several depicting Confederate figures that have been targeted for protest in the last few months, including spray-painted messages like “Black Lives Matter.” In March, the student government passed a resolution in support of removing the statue.
Fenves, who created a campus task force to decide the statue’s fate shortly after he took over as president in June, said in a statement:
After reviewing that [task force] report and hearing from many members of the university community, including our alumni and the public, I have decided that the best location for the Jefferson Davis statue is UT’s Briscoe Center for American History. While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall. Davis had few ties to Texas; he played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.
While the Jefferson Davis statue will be refurbished and placed on display inside starting in 2017, four other statues of Confederate figures will stay in their current place. Fenves said:
James Stephen Hogg, Albert Sidney Johnston, and John Reagan had deep ties to Texas. Robert E. Lee’s complicated legacy to Texas and the nation should not be reduced to his role in the Civil War. Their history will be described in the Briscoe Center. I will consider placing a plaque near the Littlefield Fountain to provide context. This combination of locating the Jefferson Davis statue in a center devoted to history and keeping the remaining statues along the Main Mall is both respectful of the heritage that is important to many and serves as a poignant display of our nation’s and university’s history.
In the interest of symmetry, the Woodrow Wilson statue that sat oppostie Davis’ will be moved to “an appropriate exterior location on campus.”