LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two national parks in California are removing all mention of Robert E. Lee from informational material even though several majestic sequoias are named for the Confederate general.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks are removing references to Lee from exhibits, printed and online material as protests against racism and police brutality have led, in some places, to the removal or pulling down of monuments to historical figures linked to slavery or colonialism. Protest have been spurred nationwide over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee to his neck in Minnesota.
A reference to the nearly 255-foot (78-meter) Robert E. Lee tree at Grant Grove in the Kings Canyon park has been stricken from an online list of the planet’s 30 biggest sequoias, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It is the world’s 11th-largest giant sequoia.
The idea was to “promote inclusiveness,” parks spokeswoman Sintia Kawasaki-Yee said.
“When people come to our national parks and see something so majestic, it shouldn’t remind them of a Confederate leader who stood for something unjust,” Masooma Kalyan, a tourist from the San Francisco Bay Area, told the Visalia Times-Delta. “They should rename it.”
However, the name can’t be officially changed without approval from Congress or the director of the National Park Service.
The tree is believed to have been named by a former Confederate lieutenant around 1875, before the area became a national park.
There are at least two other redwood trees named for Lee in the Sierra Nevada, one in Yosemite National Park and one in Giant Forest in Sequoia National Forest.
The park service is trying to figure out what to do with a sign at the General Lee tree in Giant Forest and wants to hear public opinion before deciding whether to remove it, Kawasaki-Yee said.
Other trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon are named after historical figures. The two most famous are named for Civil War Union generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.