Historians open second time capsule from former Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, find Confederate artifacts – The Washington Post – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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RICHMOND — Now we know the mundane truth of what literally lay at the root of this city’s grandiose monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee: Confederate pride, local commerce and a whole lot of Masonic tradition.

That was the preliminary message of dozens of items recovered Tuesday from a copper time capsule that had been buried at the monument site in 1887. Chamber of Commerce yearbooks, Masonic bylaws, artifacts from the Civil War, a brochure from a local real estate office (complete with a telephone number: 114) — all jam-packed into a copper box that did a surprisingly good job of weathering 134 years.

The big payoff hinted at in news coverage of the time — a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin” — turned out not to be an ultrarare photograph. Instead, an engraved double-page spread from Harper’s Weekly of 1865 depicting a woman mourning at Lincoln’s casket had been folded up and entombed beneath the Confederacy’s beloved Lee.

That didn’t seem to dampen public interest in Tuesday’s event, which was live-streamed and drew media coverage from around the world. The time capsule marks an intriguing epilogue to the tale of the Lee statue, which was transformed last year by protesters and graffiti into an internationally recognized icon of the racial equity movement.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered the statue removed in September, condemning it as a racist legacy of the Lost Cause. Workers searched for the time capsule then but didn’t find it. Another time capsule surfaced earlier this month as the statue’s 40-foot stone pedestal was being dismantled. T


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