General Robert E. Lee may have been a strategic General during the Civil War, but history records another side of him as published in a June 4, 2017 article in “The Atlantic” by Adam Serwer. General Lee was a slave owner and a “Christian”. That religious label explains why, in the excerpt of this letter written by Lee he gave this feeble justification for slavery:
” … The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, …”
Since 2012, I’ve occasionally presented “Out From Slavery” — a lecture to audiences in Bucks County and Montgomery County about the struggles of my ancestors–some from Virginia–who fled to Freedom. In my family we discovered an ancestor who served as a Station Master from his home in Reading, Pennsylvania, posting coded letters to Abolitionist William Still in Philadelphia. After presenting nearly a dozen of these presentations, I’ve come to realize that racism flourished because of America’s ignorance about slavery’s roots.
On Saturday August 14, 2017 American terrorists–collectively the alt right–swooped down on the sleepy beautiful community of Charlottesville with their racist shouts and assaults. Wrapped around their minimally educated brains were the red baseball caps of the current president’s campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’. Anger soared off the charts when death, hate and bodily injury filled the streets of Charlottesville.
Two Virginia State Troopers, there to protect the lives of law-abiding protestors, died when their helicopter crashed in a nearby golf course: Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. These two troopers had served on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s security team.
Nineteen people were injured, almost all when a demented white supremacist plowed his car into hundreds of citizens in the street. I will not put his name in this post.
Heather Heyer, a resident of Charlottesville died after she was mowed down by that car. Thirty-two years old, she lived her life speaking out for the oppressed. My heart bleeds for her mother whose soul remains strong as she grieves the untimely death of her daughter.
After the government of Charlottesville voted to remove the statue of General Lee from Emancipation Park, the crazy racists climbed out of the swamp and invaded the city. It’s a given that a crane the size of a dinosaur will pull this statue from its base. On Monday August 14 Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington Kentucky announced that two monuments in that city will be relocated to different sites. That same day protesters in Durham, North Carolina took it upon themselves to tear down a Civil War monument in front of the court house.
Throughout the thirteen southern states that fought in the Civil War, their cities and towns are littered with Confederate monuments. Since Charlottesville, city governments throughout the south wrestle with deciding the fate of their Confederate monuments.
About the only land in America where it’s possible these monuments will remain is across the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg National Battlefield. If you’ve traveled there, you observed history in the three-dimensional monuments cast in bronze and mounted on granite. Thirteen monuments of the Southern states. Twenty of the same of the Northern states. And thousands of markers where the remains of soldiers from the north and south dot the green fields of Gettysburg. That land is a reminder to us that when the fabric of America is ripped, we suffer. We lose a piece of ourselves..
In early 2017, Charlottesville approved the removal of the General Lee statue. It ultimately led up to the tragic events this past Saturday. Now there is an opportunity for Charlottesville to replace that statue in Emancipation Park with one that will speak of inclusion, liberty, peace, justice and tolerance. A monument that will honor the memories of those who Protect and Serve and those who speak out against racism.
Charlottesville, Virginia: Let the Design Competition begin!