A violent white nationalist rally last weekend centered around plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee near University of Virginia’s campus.Many people are unaware that since 1932, Lee's figure has also been displayed prominently in the heart of Duke's campus—outside the doors of the Chapel. Walking up to the Chapel's front doors, the nearly life-size statue of Lee is affixed to the right wall between statues of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, and Sidney Lanier, a poet who served in the Confederate army. A 2014 Chapel brochure describes Lee as a “soldier of the South and president of Washington and Lee University” and names all three figures as “great men of the American South.”The brochure notes that the letters “US” were accidentally engraved on Lee’s belt buckle in the statue, instead of “CSA” for Confederate States of America. Although the letters were scratched out, they still remain visible. Yet who exactly ordered Lee’s statue to be placed in the Chapel is somewhat of a mystery. Robin Kirk, a lecturer in the department of cultural anthropology, said Lee's inclusion was likely intentional, given that right across from these sculptures is a set of three religious figures. These include Girolamo Savonarola, a Florentine monk, as well as Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation, and John Wycliffe, who worked on translating the Bible into English.“If you look on the left side, those figures have some relation to religion, so the presence of Lee and Lanier does really stand out,” Kirk said. “This was a very deliberate decision to put these two figures of history and include them in what was the Duke’s centerpiece for this new campus. The symbolism is really meaningful.”President Vincent Price, who took office July 1, said he is still learning about Duke’s history but has heard that there has long been ambiguity and confusion about the statue. “It is a fascinating history with which I intend to become more familiar as I hope others will so we can better understand the ways our past intersects with our present,” he said. When asked if he would consider removing the statue as some have suggested, he said: “I at this point would prefer to know more about the circumstances and the history myself before I comment on what actions might come.”Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that any considerations to remove the statue would involve open dialogue with the Duke community. “Our approach to matters such as this should be to engage in an open, thoughtful and deliberative process across the entire Duke community, consistent with our mission as an educational institution,” he wrote.The statue's historyThe Chronicle reached out to the University Archives, which provided several documents from when the statue was installed in the early 1930s. The documents do not fully explain how the statue came to be included in the Chapel, however.One of the documents comes from the memoirs of John Donnelly, who wrote that his firm had primary responsibility for all “models, sculpture and stone carving on the complete University program.”Donnelly reached out to an unnamed Vanderbilt University professor, and the two then decided by mutual agreement which figures to include in the portal, including Lee, according to the memoirs.