The conversation about Confederate statues in the United States is highly charged, as recent events in Charlottesville, VA have shown.
I absolutely agree with The Hill:
“Please don’t direct the discussion towards the ownership of slaves. Then we just get into the argument that people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. That’s not the point! Washington and Jefferson are well known in history from the beginnings of our country. [General] Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country. These monuments were constructed well before African-Americans were permitted to vote, and they are only a reminder that racism still exists.”
But, as The Week notes in How America forgot the true history of the Civil War: “Ex-Confederates and associated sympathizers began to think up alternative histories that sounded better [than slavery], starting right after the war ended. The major plank of this was the ‘Lost Cause,’ which argued that the war was not actually about slavery — instead, it was about ‘states’ rights.’
“The antebellum South was cast as a sepia-toned paradise of noble gentlemen, virtuous ladies, and happy slaves.” John Oliver reveals The Ugly Reality Behind The ‘Lost Cause’ Cult.
In other words, the Confederate memorials were an attempt to erase history, as this southern white male and this one note.
Most of those statues were erected during the Jim Crow era before and after World War I, after the re-imposition of white supremacy. As Smithsonian magazine makes clear, We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem. “Tearing down monuments is only the beginning to understanding the false narrative of Jim Crow.
To understand how toxic the period was, read Before its subversion in the Jim Crow era, the fruit symbolized black self-sufficiency. So, what changed? And Lynching and Antilynching: Art and Politics in the 1930s.
Robert E. Lee was NOT “invariably kind and humane” to the people he enslaved, despite scuttlebutt of his benevolence. Here’s W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee. My fellow TU blogger Rob Hoffman noted:”The last thing we need in our divided nation is to excuse the behavior of a man, even one as talented as Robert E. Lee, for betraying his country at a time when it really needed him most.”
Moreover, Lee himself said: “I think it wiser …not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
I’d like to see some of those statues in museums, where context can be explained. Listen to the semi-comedic The Ballad Of General Robert E. Lee’s Statue.