What Does This Have To Do With Confederate Heritage?

Update: You can watch the public debate in its entirety, including Karen Cooper’s public address in its entirety following the opening remarks and two speakers. It really is quite a performance. Susan Hathaway follows Cooper. Hathaway frames her argument around the importance of honoring veterans. I find it interesting that neither speaker mentions references their association with the Virginia Flaggers. The speaker that followed Hathaway, however, does identify himself as a Flagger and even goes as far as to threaten the city council.

I’ve always been interested in how our beliefs about the past are weaved through our understanding of the present. All of us are influenced by our personal values and assumptions concerning a wide range of issues from politics to personal background. It is with this in mind that I find Confederate heritage groups such as the Virginia Flaggers to be so interesting and, at times, worthy of our attention.

Last night my old home of Charlottesville, Virginia held a community meeting to discuss whether the annual recognition of Lee-Jackson Day ought to continue. I wish I could have been there to listen and even participate. Charlottesville was a wonderful place to teach the Civil War and Civil War memory. The city includes a wonderful Confederate cemetery adjacent to the UVA campus and the downtown area features two parks named in honor of Lee and Jackson. Both include impressive equestrian monuments.

A few years ago the Lee monument in Charlottesville was vandalized and I spoke out against it as well as articulated a reason to maintain these monuments. They perform a function and serve as a reminder of our collective past. I have a different view of Lee-Jackson Day.

Back to the Flaggers. In attendance last night was Karen Cooper. She is a member of the Flaggers and as far as I can tell their only African-American member. I’ve written a bit about her in the past, but this post by Brooks Simpson offers a concise overview. At one point Cooper took to the podium and shared the following:

I’m just sick of liberals always babying black people. If they act like babies, they will stay like babies until you make them grow up. Make them grow up.

While she spoke with some passion it’s not clear to me what this has to do with maintaining Lee-Jackson Day or anything having to do with the Confederate past. In fact, I suspect that this speech had a negative impact on city councilors.

It’s a perfect example of why the Confederate heritage movement has come up short in recent years and will continue to come up short regarding the display of Confederate flags in public spaces, the recognition of holidays such as Lee-Jackson Day and the preservation of Confederate monuments. Cooper’s comment is an extreme example of what happens when politics and, more specifically, racial politics, overshadows a case for the preservation of reminders of the past. In other words, while we may have learned more than we wanted to know about Cooper’s racial outlook, we learn nothing about the issue at hand.

I believe that a reasonable case can be made to preserve reminders of the Confederate past in public spaces. Last night a few people attempted to articulate such a position, but most failed to move beyond the tired cliches that are standard fair at these occasions. What will no longer work is an argument that frames the decision around the most extreme distinctions that pit one group against another.

Lee-Jackson Park in Charlottesville and other such places around the South were established at a time of strict racial segregation. We should welcome the changes that have taken place in the past few decades, but along with those changes comes increased participation in public decisions about how a community collectively acknowledges its past.

I don’t know what is going to happen in Charlottesville, but regardless of the decision the arguments by Karen Cooper and others point directly to an inevitable outcome.

95 thoughts on “What Does This Have To Do With Confederate Heritage?

  1. Rob Baker

    Do you reckon this backlash against “attacks on Southern Heritage,” is seasonal? What I mean by that is, every time there is an election in which the victorious candidates stand in opposition to the general political views of Confederate Heritage advocates, is there a new push to “Fight for Heritage.”

    Could be an interesting study….

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Interesting suggestion, but I don’t think the “backlash” has much to do with elections, though the results obviously have everything to do with the kinds of issues local government is willing to address. I think it comes down to the simple fact that more and more southerners of various backgrounds no longer believe that the commemoration of the Confederate past reflects their values.

      Reply
      1. Rob Baker

        I think it comes down to the simple fact that more and more southerners of various backgrounds no longer believe that the commemoration of the Confederate past reflects their values.

        I’ll give you that much. For younger generations such as myself, fewer and fewer pay homage to the Confederacy. Those that do usually have parents that, perhaps, over-zealously commemorate the Civil War. Students that I see wearing Confederate flag t-shirts are usually wearing it as a pop. culture icon which represents some sort of “Redneck” image of stereotypical country boy. However, for those that do commemorate that event, the Civil War seems to be a perfect representation of their current political beliefs. At least in their minds anyways.

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  2. Tim Ulander

    I think the backlash is purely political. If our values, as a nation, allow us to continue to honor George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were both Southern slave-owning rebels, then there is no logical reson why our values would also not permit us to honor Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who were also Southern slave-owning rebels.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      … then there is no logical reson why our values would also not permit us to honor Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who were also Southern slave-owning rebels.

      Apparently, plenty of Southerners (white, black, etc.) disagree with you.

      Reply
  3. Andy Hall

    Cooper explained in a recent interview that her involvement with the Virginia Flaggers was a direct outgrowth of her political activism with the Tea Party and opposition to Obamacare; she views both the Tea Party and the Confederates of 1861-65 as aligned in the same struggle against an over-reaching federal government.

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  4. Samuel Fondren

    There are those who will place a great value in history, but only when they have spent the time required to learn it. When they refuse to do so,, they will do the same thing all humans do when ignorant of facts—ridicule and ignore those facts.

    It’s akin to a vagrant insulting the scholar for his lack of common sense, as if that were the litmus test for anything of value beyond that thing they worship—the common.

    Cooper is using an insight and speaking a truth which is neither convenient nor palatable. And then we come to America’s Achilles’ Heel—that demon called ‘political correctness.’

    Truth and insight require work, and we have an entire generation or more who both abhor and avoid it.

    I fear what you call ‘values,’ is instead the lack thereof. It’s not that I have come to view the proverbial glass as half-full. It’s because I have come to realize that the glass is absolutely empty.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Cooper is using an insight and speaking a truth which is neither convenient nor palatable.

      Ms. Cooper is certainly free to express her personal political/racial views. I just don’t see that it is going to help with the issue at hand. You are free to disagree.

      And then we come to America’s Achilles’ Heel—that demon called ‘political correctness.’

      References to political references almost always express little more than that you disagree with the point-of-view of another. It’s a non-starter.

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      1. Samuel Fondren

        “I’m just sick of liberals always babying black people. If they act like babies, they will stay like babies until you make them grow up. Make them grow up.”

        You open a discussion on the statement of Miss Cooper, which is inherently political, yet somehow ‘politics’ becomes a non-starter?

        I must admit to being puzzled.

        “You are free to disagree.”

        While I do appreciate the freedom you awarded me, I was under the impression that freedom was a constitutional right.

        Reply
  5. Tim Ulander

    “Apparently, plenty of Southerners (white, black, etc.) disagree with you.”

    It’s not so much that they disagree, they just don’t think it through. If they took the time to realize that Washington and Jefferson perpetrated every act for which Lee, Davis, and antebellum Southerners are demonized, they would see that the cause of 1776 was identical to the cause of 1861.

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      “they would see that the cause of 1776 was identical to the cause of 1861.”

      That is so incorrect I don’t even know where to begin.

      Reply
      1. Samuel Fondren

        Actually, it is absolutely correct.

        But I do get the impression that you are ‘free to disagree’ when it is awarded you.

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    2. Jonathan Dresner

      The parallels are interesting, especially given the recent research suggesting that the Revolutionary War was — at least in small part — a defensive action against rising British anti-slavery sentiment and regulation.

      But it confuses the part with the whole. The Declaration of Independence lays out a (mostly) progressive vision of human relations, while the various declarations of secession are explicitly regressive.

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      1. Samuel Fondren

        If you force a man to stay in your house, is he a free man?

        I have heard many excuses as to why it was okay for the North to do in 1861 precisely what Britain was trying to do in 1776. Yet, when you espouse the ideals and virtues of he Declaration of Independence, and then later the Constitution, while dictating in the manner of fascists, you cannot have freedom—just subservience.

        ‘But it was for your own good’ is the argument used against children, not against whole sections of a once loose Union of States.

        Poison is no better when coated with sugar. And even now, we are forced to remain silent at ‘the mandate of the King.’ The only thing which has changed is ‘the King.’

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        1. Jimmy Dick

          The North was not doing what Britain did in the 18th century. The conflicts are not similar. The issue was taxation without representation. The people in the southern states had plenty of representation in American government and thanks to the 3/5th clause actually had an artificial enhancement to their representation.

          I love how you try to say the north was silencing the south when in reality the South was the one that instituted a gag rule in Congress and later passed laws restricting freedom of speech in southern states.

          You might want to go back to school and learn some history before you start making comparisons that have no basis in reality. If you do want to learn some American Revolution history instead of some made up fantasies which you are trying to pass off here as actual history I suggest starting with Gordon Wood. Robert Middlekauf has a good one volume history of the event as well with The Glorious Cause.

          Gordon Wood wrote a nice short primer on the conflict as did Edmund Morgan. I use Morgan’s in my classes for students to develop a good overall understanding of what happened in the American Revolution.

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  6. Samuel Fondren

    I made no mention of ‘politics’—I spoke of ‘political correctness.’ There is absolutely nothing political about it. You dismiss something because of the label, and not because of its contents.

    I have never understood why it is that people have come to avoid the truth, as if it were somehow diseased or antiquated to the point of nothingness.

    “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” — Henry David Thoreau

    We have come to avoid the uncomfortable in America. We avoid pain; we avoid self-analysis; and we avoid history. Instead, we erase the pain with narcotics; replace the self-analysis with placation and the patronizing; and for history we substitute popular culture.

    But I do love the term ‘non-starter.’ Can you imagine an automobile with such a device or concept?

    Reply
    1. Will Hickox

      “We have come to avoid the uncomfortable in America. We avoid pain; we avoid self-analysis; and we avoid history.”

      Addressing what Americans find uncomfortable, discussing painful historical issues, performing self analysis, and dealing with history are precisely what Kevin does on this blog on a daily basis.

      Reply
  7. Tim Ulander

    “That is so incorrect I don’t even know where to begin.”

    Yeah, because neither Washington or Jefferson were slave-owners, neither was a Southerner, neither sought to affect political disunion, and neither sought to establish political independence. I see your point.

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    1. Kristoffer

      The men of 1776 revolted to create a new nation that would fulfill the ideals of representation and that all men are created equal . The men of 1861 revolted to preserve their human property. Don’t ever compare the two again.

      Reply
  8. Tim Ulander

    “The Declaration of Independence lays out a (mostly) progressive vision of human relations, while the various declarations of secession are explicitly regressive.”

    That’s true, but only in a political sense, not a socially egalitarian sense. In addition to being written by a slave-owner, the Declaration was written on behalf of slave-owners and slave-traffickers. It also explicitly protested the Crown’s interference with the colonists right to own slaves. However, if you mean the Declaration promulgated a progressive vision of human relations politically, then you are correct. But the secession statements did the same thing.

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      You might want to read Jefferson’s original draft where he blamed slavery on the King. That draft had almost a third of its words altered by the delegates from July 2nd to July 4th as a committee of the whole.

      The Crown did not interfere with slave ownership until it began to offer freedom to slaves in order to deliver a blow to the slave owners.

      The slave owners in the Civil War sought to create a nation dedicated to slavery and its protection. The people in the American Revolution did not. In fact, they were attacking the very foundation of the institution of slavery which was based on inequality and race, although in that time equality was the issue they fought over, not race.

      The secession statements as progressive? Good lord, what are you smoking?

      Reply
    1. Madison Hemings

      Is it possible that the council was just floored by the offensiveness of her statements to not know how to react? She arrived with zero knowledge of anything that was actually happening in Charlottesville or what is really like there for African Americans. Then Cooper proceeded to infantilize African Americans, talking past real-live black people from Charlottesville like they are objects! Cooper can think for herself and maybe she really believes the things she said but her tirade was so tone-deaf, off-message, and (yes) racist that it should really be given exactly equal the amount of serious consideration she received from the residents of Charlottesville Monday evening. Which is to say: None.

      Based on the full video, it is a fair point to admit that the meeting got out of hand at times. However, why should anyone have to listen to strangers who come from out of town to harangue and lie to you like that without calling BS? I’m fairly certain that flaggers in attendance will learn nothing. Their take-away will only confirm their own prejudices about people of color and “liberuhls.” And I am sorry if this is over the line of decency but it makes me happy that – for at least one night – these dinosaurs were made to feel as supremely uncomfortable (and belittled) as most Virginians do when we see the flaggers out on the sidewalk.

      (cuttable PS: by “zero consideration” i did not mean stop shining the light on the threat they pose to popular historical literacy or enthusiasm. plz keep it up.)

      Reply
      1. Andy Hall

        Is it possible that the council was just floored by the offensiveness of her statements to not know how to react? She arrived with zero knowledge of anything that was actually happening in Charlottesville or what is really like there for African Americans.

        I’ve attended enough city council and school board meetings in my town to know that ranty tirades of dubious relevance like Cooper’s are pretty routine, and that (further) every community has its “characters,” who attend every session and always have something to say. Goes with the territory.

        That said, Cooper’s presentation to the Charlottesville City Council is another example of amateurish, unprepared road show that is the Virginia Flaggers. These folks are supposed to be knowledgeable, experienced people with a clear and honed message. Cooper is one of the most prominent members of the Virginia Flaggers, someone who has been “on the front lines” of heritage defense for years now. Their presence at the meeting in Charlottesville was part of a coordinated call by the Flaggers for speakers, for the specific goal of making the case for retention of the Lee-Jackson holiday. There’s no reason for anyone to go completely off message like that. It’s got to be an embarrassment. (Hathaway’s public account of the meeting doesn’t mention Cooper at all, except to complain about an audience member who kept insulting her.) Three-and-a-half years into the Flaggers’ active existence, even one of their most prominent, high-profile members cannot speak for three minutes in a relevant, focused, and persuasive way. What a clusterfnck.

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    2. Larry Itliong

      Check out Karen Cooper’s outburst of “WAAH WAAH WAAH!!!” during Wes Bellamy’s remarks (a little past 1:55:17).

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    1. Larry Itliong

      🙂

      PHINEAS T. MCGILLICUDDY, 2/2/2015 (2nd speech)

      My name was on the list, I believe you may have overlooked me, Mr. Mayor.

      I would like to agree with one of the speakers earlier, three or four speakers back, who said that we could eliminate a lot of misunderstandings if we just study the history of the Civil War. And I agree one hundred percent.

      For example, if we look at the document that lists the reasons for secession for the State of South Carolina, which became the model for other states such as Mississippi who followed suit, among their reasons were listed:

      The refusal of Northern states to return runaway slaves.
      The refusal of some Northern states to allow slave transit with the slave trade.
      They objected that some New England states allowed black men to vote.
      They even said that states should not have the rights to allow their citizens to assemble and give public speeches if they were anti-slavery speeches.

      So the argument that this was a war of states rights, and against big government, is quite frankly laughable.

      And this war is still very much being fought today. The descendants of these slaves that Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to keep enslaved are still fighting a war, and I wish we could turn the conversation back to the way that war is playing out in Charlottesville today.

      See, the Constitution was written as a blueprint for a slave-based economy. The founder of this city was very active in the process of developing that slave-based economy, of putting together mathematical formulas for how people could be guaranteed to succeed in business if they conducted their slave-based operations in a certain way.

      So I wonder, since much is made of the fact that our Chief of Police is a constitutional scholar, and the Constitution of the United States is a blueprint for a slave-based economy, and we have a prison-industrial complex, a school-to-prison pipeline, very much a problem in Charlottesville as the DMC is failing to address, I wonder:

      How much has this war really ended?

      How much is it still going on, same as it ever did, same as it ever was?

      When Miss Mary Carey fights valiantly for a crosswalk for elderly people of color to be able to safely cross the street, and she is refused that, while privileged, wealthy students from other states have a crosswalk every fifty feet at the University of Virginia, the war is still being fought.

      Mr. Fenwick, when you hold a forum right here in this chamber for people to come together and talk about city planning, the city planning that a past editor of a newpaper said is going to cause the city’s historically black population to melt away, when people can come and talk about gentrification and the effects of how their communities are being destroyed, and you schedule that meeting on the same night as black folks from the Westhaven community are asked to come and talk about ways that the city can be more kinder and gentler, and how they they lock up black children and send them to the school-to-prison pipeline, then that war is being fought right here in Charlottesville.

      So please, people, wake up! Bury this holiday deep, deep under the ground where it belongs, and talk about something relevant for God’s sake!

      Reply
  9. Kyle A

    I had never really considered the fact that the political principles of 1776 and 1861 so closely paralleled one another. In both cases there was a slave-owning political society seeking its independence from a larger political society. In both cases the larger society refused to grant the political independence being sought, and a civil war ensued. The only difference was in the outcome. That aside, it is really hard to sustain the rather preposterous claim that the slave-owning white men of 1776 believed in equality. For heaven’s sake, on the one hand they were chaining African men in the bowels of slaves ships, and they were mercilessly whipping those slaves when they reached the shores of America.

    And they perpetrated these foul injustices nd unconscionable abuses all the while believing that “all men are created equal”?

    Reply
  10. msb

    “I had never really considered the fact that the political principles of 1776 and 1861 so closely paralleled one another.”

    Well, no, they don’t. The political principle at stake in 1776 was “taxation without representation is tyranny”. The political principle at stake in 1860 was: “we don’t like the result (which we did a great deal to ensure by splitting the Democratic Party) of a legal election, because it means we might lose control of the national government, so we’re going to take our ball and go home”.

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    1. Jimmy Dick

      I just love how some folks like to rewrite history in order to give their opinions legitimacy. The idea that the Revolution and Civil War were over the same issues is such an attempt. So is the idea of linking the Civil War with modern politics or the Revolution with modern politics. They are not the same in any way.

      MSB does a nice job explaining the difference on the surface. The essence of the conflicts were completely different in a multitude of ways. This is not to say some did not try to justify their rebellion via tying it to the Revolution, but their argument fell far short of the reality. The people of 1861 knew very well what the war was about.

      Reply
  11. Michael Rodgers

    I agree with Kevin about the monuments. And here’s Dr. Lonnie Randolph, President of the SC state conference of the NAACP, at King Day at the Dome 2015, regarding the Tillman statue at the SC State House: “I don’t talk too much about moving it, if they’d just put the truth on it. Tell them that he was a killing of people and human beings. Tell them that he was part of a lynch mob… Tell the truth about Ben ‘Pitchfork’ Tillman.”
    I also think that the Heritage crowd goes too quickly to the false slippery slope argument saying that all historical figures are equal and therefore if we as a nation ever remove one statue we must remove them all, which we would never do and therefore we should never remove one. Nonsense. People see things case by case, area by area, etc.
    The SC NAACP wants SC to take down the Confederate flag flying out front of the State House, adjacent to the Confederate Soldier Monument. The SC NAACP says nothing about the Confederate Soldier Monument itself, and that fact along with the above statement by Dr. Randolph shows that the flying flag and the monument are different. Dr. Randolph also says that the boycott will end immediately when the flag comes down, so there’s nothing next, no slippery slope.
    And, around the SC State House there’s also an African American Monument, so people can go around the State House and get a sense of all the history. The monuments should simply tell the truth. For example, the Strom Thurmond monument was changed immediately when the news came out that he had another child. The Confederate Soldier Monument is wonderful, but with the Confederate flag flying right behind it so prominently, in 2015, well, it doesn’t feel like the truth.

    Reply
  12. Jerry McKenzie

    Interesting public comments. I’m a little surprised at how many speakers were from Richmond and not Charlottesville. Maybe the council prefers to listen to their constituents. Local government is for locals.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      From what I could tell most of the outsiders were associated with the Virginia Flaggers. Many of them have since complained on various forums re: the reception they received, but in the end they got to share their views. I am confident that city council will give their constituents priority.

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    2. Andy Hall

      “Local government is for locals.”

      It is, but the Flaggers and other heritage folks usually rationalize their interference by asserting that the views of local residents they disagree with are somehow not legitimate — transplants from “up north,” ignorant of history, and so on. They really have no actual commitment to the principle of local self-government. They just want what they want.

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  13. Eric A. Jacobson

    I have just one thing from about 1:31:47. New York and Boston were the largest slave trading ports in late 1860? The slave trade was still legal in late 1860?? Oh my…..

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      A lot of people made a lot of historical mistakes on all sides of the issue. It is interesting to watch. Cooper’s speech, however, took the cake. If you look closely you can see Hathaway covering her face. I would be embarrassed as well.

      Reply
  14. Eric A. Jacobson

    Gosh, I can’t stop watching. 🙂

    What does Karen Cooper’s speech have to do with R. E. Lee or T. J. Jackson? I’m so confused.

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  15. Eric A. Jacobson

    Yes of course….Lee freed his slaves, Grant kept his, and the Corwin amendment.

    Kevin, why do you do this to me? I’m trying to work….

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  16. Conrad

    I watched much of the debate and was left wondering why everyone opposing the Lee-Jackson holiday bitterly excoriated slavery, yet not one of them, in Charlottsville, Virginia, which is home to a University founded by a rebel slaver, ever attacked, criticized, or even mentioned the University’s symbolic connection to slavery. That aside, one Susan Hathaway, who evidently favors the Lee-Jackson holiday, was beautiful, elegant, articulate, and graceful in her demeanor and presence, which was in stark contrast to the vulgar, wild, hysterical, and almost violent conduct of one Gabrielle Saylong, who was in opposition to the holiday. If these two women embody their respective positions, as it appears they do, the holiday should be around for awhile.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The University of Virginia just recently held a conference on its connection to slavery and its relationship to the surrounding community. Susan read from prepared remarks which is always a wise move in these situations, but beyond suggesting that the council acknowledge Lee and Jackson as veterans I didn’t see much content.

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    2. James Harrigan

      I […] was left wondering why everyone opposing the Lee-Jackson holiday […] [never] even mentioned the University’s symbolic connection to slavery.
      Hmmm, what a mystery indeed! Could it be because the issue at hand had nothing to do with TJ (as we call him here in Charlottesville) or UVa?

      UVa (where I work) venerates TJ, but it is also a hotbed of scholarship and criticism of our founder. The idea that people in Charlottesville and at UVa don’t have a nuanced understanding of TJ, and don’t discuss and criticize his life, is (to be polite) misinformed.

      Kevin notes above the recent and ongoing efforts at UVa to honestly reckon with our history with slavery and, more broadly, white supremacy. We have a long way to go, but we’re headed in the right direction.

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    3. Michael C Williams

      Mrs. Hathaway spoke so elegantly and never once raised her voice to express her views.

      I think that she made a big impression on the council and I hope that Lee-Jackson day will stick around.

      And the people in the back!?

      N0 one that wanted Lee-Jackson day booed and shouted when someone was making a point…how rude.

      And Kevin didn’t you say that you where from Boston?

      Because you have me all confused, is it Charlottesville or Boston?

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        I lived and worked in Charlottesville, Virginia for 11 years before moving to Boston in 2011. It’s a beautiful place to live.

        Hathaway was very composed and that had much to do with the fact that she read from a prepared text. I don’t think that her argument was very strong, but that is simply a matter of opinion. Despite the rudeness, I applaud the fact that the city council allows non-residents to share their point-of-view.

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        1. Michael C Williams

          Your a native Virginian I take it?

          Most of the people on my side of the “table” seem to have composed themselves correctly except that black women.

          She could have conducted herself differently.

          “Despite the rudeness, I applaud the fact that the city council allows non-residents to share their point-of-view.”

          It would seem like I have misjudged your character Mr. Levin.

          But I must ask what would you think if some people got together and asked for the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue?

          Would you also call for it’s removal?

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          1. Kevin Levin Post author

            No, I was not born in Virginia. As I stated in my previous comment, I lived in Charlottesville for 11 years before moving to Boston in 2011.

            Sure. Any number of people could have conducted themselves better, but why does this really matter. It is a heated issue and some people were not happy with the number of speakers from outside their community. In the end, everyone spoke.

            I have made my position clear more than once on the removal of monuments.

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  17. James Harrigan

    Lots of commentary here and elsewhere on the interwebs about this issue from people who don’t live, vote, and pay taxes in Charlottesville. Here’s what I had to say (via email) to my city council members:

    Dear Charlottesville City Council members,

    I am a seven year resident of the City of Charlottesville, I work in and pay taxes to the city, my kids go to city schools – and I strongly support cancelling the city’s observance of Lee-Jackson Day.

    The decision to create a holiday honoring these two icons of the Lost Cause was a political decision, intended to symbolically celebrate and cement white supremacy. In 2015, it is long past time for our city to make another political decision: to reject the official, city-paid-for celebration of Lee and Jackson. The city’s official recognition of Lee-Jackson Day is offensive and embarrassing to me, and I hope you will do the right thing and get rid of it.

    I am confident that a strong majority of Charlottesville citizens reject the ideology associated with this holiday. Please listen to us, not the legions of confederate nostalgists who showed up at the council meeting the other day and who, I have no doubt, are bombarding you with specious arguments why we should keep this offensive holiday.

    Thanks for reading my message, and for your service to the city.

    Regards,
    James Harrigan
    Charlottesville, VA

    Reply
  18. Conrad

    That’s fine for the U Va administration, but I was specifically commenting on the speakers in the debate. They all seemed to be deeply offended and morally outraged by the institution of slavery, but only when it is connected to the Confederacy. And yet they casually and completely ignore the fact that Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, the University right there in Charlottsville, routinely committed every evil they decry. How is that possible?

    Reply
    1. Pat Young

      Conrad wrote: “I was specifically commenting on the speakers in the debate. They all seemed to be deeply offended and morally outraged by the institution of slavery, but only when it is connected to the Confederacy.”

      This is a foundationless statement. There is no evidence that the speakers were not outraged at pre-1861 slavery. The agenda item was the Lee-Jackson Day observance, not Slavery in America.

      Conrad also wrote: “And yet they casually and completely ignore the fact that Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, the University right there in Charlottsville, routinely committed every evil they decry. How is that possible?”

      They also casually and completely ignored the killing of Jews by the Nazis. How is that possible? Wasn’t the Holocaust one of the greatest crimes in human history? Oh, yeah, that was not on the agenda. So they did not talk about it.

      Conrad should write to the city council and denounce the broader history of white oppression of African Americans.

      Also, unless there is a “Jefferson Day Off From Work for Charlottesville” then there would be little point in debating Jefferson at the city council meeting.

      Reply
  19. Madison Hemings

    The current tactic on vaflaggers Facebook page (and Connie’s blog) to distract from the fact that the residents of Charlottesville rejected both their arguments and very presence is curious to me. They are focusing on the most upset, even unhinged, speakers as if that somehow makes a point in their favor? Putting aside how much it reeks of “see how THOSE people are,” why don’t Susan et al. actually engage with the more measured arguments put forth by Charlottesville residents (Elizabeth Birdsall and Wes Bellamy are names I’ve seen in news coverage with good points against the holiday.) or maybe address the comments council made after the break?
    What’s the upshot for them reacting this way?

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    1. AP Chill

      I’m confused. If the crowd was hostile, why didn’t the flaggers just change their hearts and minds? According to their facebook page they are great at it.

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      1. Madison Hemings

        The literature on racial othering in circuses, world’s fairs, and sideshows is pretty substantial now. I’d bet Connie hasn’t read any of it, but she picked the exact metaphor she meant to.

        Reply
  20. Conrad

    Sorry, but I am afraid that Ol’ Massa Tom is undoubtedly, and necessarily, front and center in this discussion. Front and center. That is because, quite obviously, the tactics being used by the opponents of the Lee-Jackson holiday rely on demonizing the legacy of slavery and white supremacy, and similarly demonizing those who are prominently connected with that legacy. And Ol’ Massa Tom fits that bill very handsomely. Perfectly, in fact. Not that George Washington and James Madison don’t also, but for crying out loud, they were in Charlottsville, the very home of the Univerity founded by the rebel white-supremacist slaver.

    Reply
    1. Pat Young

      Conrad, you said “the tactics being used by the opponents of the Lee-Jackson holiday rely on demonizing the legacy of slavery and white supremacy.” One does not have to “demonize” slavery and white supremacy. The mere advocacy of either revolts sane people.

      Reply
  21. Conrad

    I take it then Pat, that you are revolted by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison. All were white-supremacists, and all were slave-owners.

    Reply
    1. Jerry Sudduth Jr.

      The founders of this nation didn’t inaugurate a rebellion to solely to perpetuate the institution of slavery. They were flawed men and their connections to slavery are known and not glossed over. It isn’t being glossed over. The American Revolution wasn’t a movement to perpetuate slavery, many founders owned slaves. It’s unfortunate, it’s also not the issue here.

      Lee and Jackson were part of a rebellion that’s main urge was to perpetuate slavery. That is the issue many people have with local/state governments having official holidays honoring these men. People see Lee and Jackson, and rightfully so I think, as leaders of a rebellion that had it succeeded would’ve kept millions in bondage. People do not want that commemorated on the governmental level.

      No reasonable person is saying that monuments to Confederate soldiers shouldn’t exist, no one wants to deny people the right to privately honor the holiday. They just don’t want government recognition of men who were military leaders of a cause predicated on defense of slavery.

      Reply
        1. Pat Young

          Michael Williams, saying you don’t give a damn what people think is exactly what is dooming the Lee/Jackson observances.

          Linking to pages showing government expenditures on graves is hardly relevant to this discussion. Nothing in those links explains why Lee should be commemorated over all other individual soldiers.

          Reply
  22. Conrad

    The founders of this nation most certainly did inaugurate a violent and illegal rebellion to preserve slavery, and Massa Tom’s Declaration explicitly said so. And when the rebellion ultimately succeeded, thanks to the military prowess of Massa George, hundreds of thousands of human beings were kept in bondage. Worse still, thousands upon thousands more would be ruthlessly manacled in the wretched and filthy holds of New England slave-trafficking ships for the infamous middle-passage. But curiously, all of this seems to be, if I can borrow your language, merely “unfortunate” when these ugly truths are connected to the founders.

    And as always, it should be remembered that the Condeferates did not fight a war to defend or preserve slavery; they fought to defend and preserve their political independence.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Where in the Declaration does it state this? There was a section in Jefferson’s first draft that blamed the King for the existence of slavery, but it was removed.

      And as always, it should be remembered that the Condeferates did not fight a war to defend or preserve slavery; they fought to defend and preserve their political independence.

      That’s not what they claimed in speeches, secession statements and countless other documents.

      THIS THREAD HAS COME TO AN END – MODERATOR

      Reply
  23. Eric A. Jacobson

    Kevin, you may not post this as it seems the thread has ended, but just in case you might I offer this:

    Conrad’s allegation about the Founders is so materially incorrect that it deserves to be challenged head on. The Founders did not launch a revolution to preserve slavery. In fact, most of them understood with abject clarity that slavery was a moral wrong, and it conflicted with natural law as advocated by John Locke and others. This is precisely why Jefferson launched into an attack on slavery in the original draft of the Declaration. However, ardent slave owners pushed to have that section removed. Notice the slave owning Jefferson wanted to include it. I’ll leave it to others to decide which slave owners wanted the written and official statement on slavery removed.

    Anyway, fast forward 85 years and you have a complete evolution in thought so profound that the leading proponents of secession actually went on the record to state that the Founders were WRONG. Jeff Davis said as much in his Farewell Address to the Senate. Alexander Stephens went even further, and was far more specific on March 21, 1861:

    “Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error.”

    So Stephens admitted the Founders believed the races were equal, but that they did not know how to deal with the problem. Well Stephens and the secessionist crowd (in their minds) had figured out the answer. The races were NOT equal, and Founders were wrong. Period.

    I find it galling that Confederate defenders can’t just accept what the evidence shows. Moreover, to liken those of 1860-61 to those of 1776 is ridiculous. At least the Founders understood that subordination was not the natural and permanent position of ANY person, they also understood that they could not just walk away from the Crown and that they would have to fight. That being said, at least Davis and Stephens and their secessionist peers were honest in 1860-61 (although they changed their tunes post-war having realized the moral vacuum they had been sucked into). Their arch defenders today ought to try some honesty, and stop trying to smear the Founders with bogus charges.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You are absolutely right to challenge it head on. My frustration with it stems from the fact that we’ve been over this ground time and time again. I do appreciate your willingness to jump in.

      Reply
    2. Jimmy Dick

      Excellent post, Eric. I find it interesting that some folks want to make statements about the American Revolution, but obviously have not read Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution or Gordon Wood’s The Creation of the American Republic. Those two books are foundations of American Revolution historiography.

      I am willing to bet most of the folks who do not use their real names and make spurious claims about the Revolution don’t even know who Bailyn and Wood are, let alone have read any of their works. Of course, I am also willing to be some media folks with talk shows haven’t read them either.

      Reply
  24. Alan Skerrett

    It was noted that Karen Cooper said: “I’m just sick of liberals always babying black people. If they act like babies, they will stay like babies until you make them grow up. Make them grow up.”

    I’m sick and tired of people who claim that liberals tell me what to think and say and do.

    Perhaps she has people who tell her what to think, and assumes that this process applies to everyone else. But as for me, I can read a book and make up my own mind, thank you.

    Reply
  25. Conrad

    Let’s be clear on a few things shall we? The original draft of the DoI did not, I repeat, DID NOT, include language attacking slavery. It included language attacking the slave-trade. The difference is quite “material”, and confusing the two is inexcusable. And the language was removed so that the ardent slave-traffickers of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island could continue to traffick in human cargo. All this was done, of course, in the interest of promoting racial equality. And Massa Tom and Massa George went right on whipping, selling, and sexually abusing their own slaves, and that too, was undoubtedly done in the interest of advancing racial equality. The founders believed in racial equality. Talk about galling…

    Oh yeah, back to the point regarding the Founders explicitly announcing the protection of slavery as a cause for their rebellion, here it is:

    “He has excited domestic insurrection among us…”

    A reference, of course, to the Dunmore proclamation, which promised to free slaves who would fight on behalf of the Crown. The interference with the right of the colonists to own slaves enraged them.

    Reply
    1. Jimmy Dick

      Might want to pull up Jefferson’s draft and apply context to it.

      he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce; and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

      When you look at this you realize it is not the slave markets, but slavery itself TJ was addressing. Note the language used in the paragraph. TJ compared slavery itself against liberty and found the two incompatible. What he did about it during his life is a complete story, but when he wrote the DOI he attacked slavery which was consistent with his outlook at that time.

      As for the Domestic insurrection, you forgot that the struggle involved the Patriots and the Loyalists. The King was encouraging domestic strife between whites. You just choose to interpret it in a way that fits what you want to believe. That line is deeper than you think because it also involves Native Americans. This was not a white only society, but one with whites, blacks, and Native Americans who lived in a very different world than the one we do. The entire sentence indicates that quite well.

      Reply
  26. Larry Itliong

    KAREN COOPER, 2/2/2015

    Hello, I’m Karen Cooper. I’m from Richmond, Virginia. I’m here in favor of keeping Lee-Jackson Day.

    You know, I’m just so sick of black people being treated special. They are not special. They’re just like everybody else. If they want something, work for it. You know, if you don’t have enough money to live in a nice neighborhood then you don’t live there.

    I have a full-time job. I’m the mother of three, single mother, and I would love to live in a nicer area but I don’t whine and cry like a baby because I can’t live there. I understand it’s not because of my skin color. It’s because I can’t afford it. And I’m not going to beg the government to steal from white people to let me live amongst them when I can’t afford it.

    I’m just sick of liberals always babying black people. They act like babies. They will stay babies until you make them grow up. Make them grow up! And do for themselves, and stop complaining.

    My daughter goes to James Madison University. She got a full academic scholarship. She did not get a dime from the government. She worked hard for what she has. I work hard for what I have. I’m not on government assistance anymore, when I was, and of course when I got a job I expected to lose my government aid. I’m not supposed to keep welfare and keep working, you know, that is wrong.

    And why I see again, you are letting these people interrupt me just because they’re black. I don’t understand. They are not special. Why do you prefer them over yourself?

    You know, the guilty white liberals are killing black people. They are not helping them. That’s why they’re in such dire straits. Because of guilty feeling white people that just want to throw money at ignorant people that don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to invest it. They don’t know how to save it. Or you’re going to go out and buy some sneakers, or a car you can’t afford. And the cycle continues.

    I have a sister that has three children in the projects. Probably gonna have a fourth one. My mother, she had nine children in the projects. The cycle repeats, if you don’t stop it. Make them become responsible for themselves. If they’re poor then let them wallow in it. Until they are so, that they want to get out of it and do something for their darn self.

    Nobody did anything for me. Nobody gave my ex-husband, who is white, he never felt that he was privileged. He worked for everything he had.

    And I’m going to go over because these people was interrupting me. And I’m not going to stay here because as liberals, you know, I’m black so I can do whatever I want to just like you let them do whatever they want to.

    Reply
  27. James Harrigan

    Wow, just wow. Not sure why her grievances make her want to come out in support of Lee-Jackson Day in a town where she doesn’t live, but quite a rant in any event…

    but I had to smile at this part:
    My daughter goes to James Madison University. She got a full academic scholarship. She did not get a dime from the government.
    Good on her daughter, but last I checked JMU was owned and operated by the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a taxpayer in Virginia I am delighted to support the education of Ms. Cooper’s daughter.

    Reply
  28. Conrad

    The applicable context was that the language was a protest directly and specifically against slave-trafficking, and it had nothing at all to do with the institution of domestic slavery itself. The language is perfectly clear, as in “PIRATICAL WARFARE”. And if that doesn’t help you, remember that Massa Tom’s outlook at the time was one of a slave-master who owned, quite literally, hundreds of slaves. Another clear indication Massa Tom was referring to the slave trade and not domestic slavery, is the language “execrable commerce”. And then there is his reference to “a market where MEN should be bought and sold”. Again, it is crystal clear that Massa Tom was not attacking domestic slavery, but rather, slave-trafficking. How can you possibly claim that Massa Tom was not referring to slave markets when he used the language “MARKETS where MEN should be bought and sold”?

    As for your claim that King George was encouraging insurrection, the exact opposite is true. He was trying to suppress the colonial insurrection, not promote it.

    Reply
    1. Jimmy Dick

      I disagree. You are ignoring the context of Jefferson’s statements regarding slavery. He meant slavery as the whole, not just the trafficking of humans. He emphasized the words liberty in the paragraph because slavery was not compatible with liberty. He was deliberate with his wording. One cannot separate the market from slavery and TJ did not. What you are trying to do is twist the meaning of his words to fit your ideology.

      The facts do not support your views on insurrection either. King George was putting one down. Note that it wasn’t him that supported domestic insurrection, but TJ and the Patriots who were rebelling. In the ensuring conflict, people chose sides. Some chose the King’s side and that was the domestic insurrection. My statement about the world that Jefferson lived in still applies. You are not placing the statement TJ made in its proper context.

      Now if you want to quibble over Jefferson’s statements via the market wording, let me remind you that the House of Burgesses had voted unanimously to petition the Crown to end Atlantic slave trade…that’s right, to END the slave trade. The Virginians wanted to sell its excess slaves off to other colonies. It was not the New England slave merchants that wanted this to continue, but the English slave merchants that wanted it to continue.

      What this demonstrated was the dependence of Virginia upon the Crown for the control of any trade, not just the slave trade in the colonies. Jefferson was striking two birds with one stone with that paragraph. He was hitting both slavery and economic dependence.

      See Independence by John Ferling, page 305-306. I would get out my Pauline Maiers book, but I have it at the campus for a student’s use in developing a presentation on the DOI.

      The bottom line here is that you are trying to make something fit your ideology that does not.

      Reply
  29. Conrad

    “In Jefferson’s original version of the Declaration, this charge was followed by a long passage condemning King George for having failed to suppress the SLAVE TRADE to America…” This is the stricken passage: “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold…”

    So that’s that.

    and

    “In writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson euphemistically referred to Dunmore’s proclamation as exciting “domestic insurrection.”

    http://www.virginiamemory.com/online_classroom/shaping_the_constitution/doc/dunmores_proclamation

    And that is that.

    Reply
    1. Jimmy Dick

      Thanks for proving my point about slavery. You failed to make yours. You keep trying to make the DOI fit your ideology and you fail each time.

      As for the domestic part, you fail to address the context. You can’t see the forest for the trees. You are looking at the whole thing with 21st century eyes which means you are not seeing the world of 1776.

      Now, in keeping with Kevin’s rules, I am not insulting you. However, if you wish to continue to make erroneous statements please use your real name. I will no longer respond to people who cannot use their real name.

      Reply
  30. Conrad

    Did you even read the passage you quoted? Did you not see the language “…in the persons of a DISTANT PEOPLE…” And then there is this quote from Jefferson’s own notes from the Congressional debates on the Declaration. Jefferson writes:

    “…the clause too, reprobating the enslaving THE INHABITANTS OF AFRICA was struck out…”

    The clause clearly had absolutely nothing to do with the institution of domestic slavery, and referred only to slave-trafficking.

    Reply
  31. Andy Hall

    I wondered how long it would be before some Flagger publicly referred to Charlottesville Mayor Huja, who is Sikh, as a “raghead.” Turns out, not long.

    Confederate Heritage advocates: they are exactly who you thought the were.

    Reply

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