Duke University takes down Robert E. Lee statue after defacement

Damage done to the face of a statue of Confederate commander General Robert E. Lee is seen, at Duke University's Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina, U.S. on August 17, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Duke University has removed a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the entrance of an on-campus chapel.

The university removed the statue Saturday morning after discovering that it had been vandalized Wednesday night. Part of the statue's nose had been broken off and its face was chipped and cracked in various places, according to the Associated Press.

"I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel," Duke University President Vincent E. Price said in an email to students, faculty, staff and alumni. "[T]o ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university."

"The removal also presents an opportunity for us to learn and heal," Price continued. "The statue will be preserved so that students can study Duke's complex past and take part in a more inclusive future."

This move by Duke University to remove the statue from public view follows a series of contentious debates that have occurred in the past few years on college campuses across the country about whether to display monuments to Confederate leaders.

The move follows the "Unite the Right" rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday. The large gathering of white nationalists, white supremacists and members of the "alt-right" turned violent, spurring the quiet removal of Confederate monuments in Baltimore, Maryland, and the toppling of a Confederate statue by protesters in Durham, North Carolina.

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Debates over maintaining material representations of certain historical figures on college campuses have taken place at universities across the country from Princeton University to the University of Texas.

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