Given the recent news surrounding the Museum of the Confederacy and the latest news regarding the SCV’s interest in taking control of the board of directors, I thought I might share this letter-to-the-editor written by S. Waite Rawls. The letter is in response to an article which appeared in a recent issue of the University of Virginia Magazine on new tours of the grounds that explore slave life on campus. The article is titled "Scripting History" and was written by Paul Evans who is a teaching colleague of mine.
"Scripting History" in the winter issue was very interesting, as it pointed out the great difficulty of dealing with many aspects of American history that preceded the abolition of slavery. Monticello and Mount Vernon do a very good job of dealing quite frankly and accurately with the slave labor that supported Jefferson and Washington, yet a cloud hangs over both men in the culture of our current times.
It is even more difficult, yet more important, when the topic changes to the Civil War and, especially, the Confederacy. Several years ago, I became president and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. It is the oldest, largest and most important Civil War museum and research library in the country. The Civil War is one of, if not the most important portions of American history that all Americans should understand, regardless of whether their ancestors fought in gray or in blue, or were still in India, Mexico or China. Yet the cloud of slavery hangs heavy over all things Confederate these days, and normally intelligent people would rather erase the memory than discuss it–more reminiscent of efforts in China, Russia, or Afghanistan to erase history than what we Americans are supposed to do.
Instead, Americans should work hard to understand the real history of why the Civil War came about, and how it was fought, and what its outcomes have been. That is particularly true of graduates of Mr. Jefferson’s University, which furnished twice as many officers for the Confederate army than any other school