Lee County NAACP formally proposes changing Robert E. Lee portrait

Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. The Lee County chapter of the NAACP has formally offered county commissioners a deal on the portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee hanging in the county courthouse.

The organization pledges not to seek the removal of Lee’s likeness in the courthouse as long as the existing portrait, which shows him in a Confederate uniform, is replaced with one depicting him in a “non-military suit.”

The NAACP made its request official Tuesday in a resolution sent to commissioners. The idea came up earlier this month in the wake of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

NAACP chapter president James Muwakkil originally said he would approach officials from the county and the city of Fort Myers about removing the portrait as well as a statue of Lee that sits downtown. The organization has since expressed willingness to compromise on the statue as well, informally proposing it be placed in a cemetery instead.

Commissioner Frank Mann wrote in a letter that he’s willing to “consider carefully” the idea of replacing the portrait of Lee with one of him in a suit.

The NAACP resolution cites county commissioners as having come up with the proposal, but Mann said the suggestion came from the NAACP.

Muwakkil is drawing heat from state level NAACP officials, who are pushing for full removal of Lee memorials, for his willingness to compromise.

“My bosses from across the state jumped all over me for having made that decision without consultation,” he said. “I thought it was the right thing to do then. I still think it’s the right thing to do now.”

Commissioners would need to vote on any change before it happens, but a vote could come as early as their next meeting, set for Sept. 5.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.