In a stunning reversal Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick announced earlier today that at the next meeting council meeting he will vote to remove and relocate the Robert E. Lee monument at Lee Park. Just last week the councilman voted more than once to abstain, which left the vote tied. His anticipated vote will likely secure the monuments relocation, which raises a host of other issues that will have to be addressed.

One of the question that I still have is how relocation to another park deals with the underlying argument in favor of the monument’s removal. If it is problematic in one location, why is this not the case at another public park?

There will certainly be additional updates, which I will post as they become available.

35 comments add yours

  1. I am more inclined to favor re-contextualizatuon. Thanks for breaking this.

  2. great news, though I suspect the saga of where our White Supremacy monuments will end up is not over yet. I am confident that this vote reflects the opinion of the majority of my fellow Cvillians.

  3. Reading about the parks McIntire established in Charlottesville underscores your questions about relocation. Lee and Jackson parks aren’t parks in the recreational sense, they are relatively small lots downtown with a monument in them and some benches surrounded by trees (from looking at them in Google Earth). But if they moved to McIntire Park they would actually be moved into a larger recreational space where they would probably be more noticeable. And it appears that even if you took the Jackson statue out of Jackson park there is still a Confederate memorial and two cannons on the on an adjacent street bordering the park. Then for good measure, looking at the city park’s website, McIntire also gave statues of Lewis & Clark (hardly non-controversial figures) which will remain.

    The city website paints an interesting picture of how the parks came into existence. In the case of Jackson Park the city was bothered by young men hanging around the Levy Opera House and wanted to clean up the neighborhood near the court house. So McIntire gave the land to the city “…with the understanding that the area would never be used other than for a park and that no other monument except Jackson’s would ever be placed on the property.” in exchange for a place to put the statue. The Lee Park property he gave to honor his parents, including his father who was mayor of Charlottesville during the war. McIntire was a New York stock broker. The Jackson monument was dedicated, it appears, in conjunction with a reunion of some regiments from the area.

    From news accounts it is going to cost $750,000 to move the monuments and if they are moved to the larger recreational park it could well end up that Charlottesville is going to pay 3/4 of a million dollars to place two Confederate monuments where more people will see them.

    • As I understand it the consensus on the council is to keep the Jackson monument at its present location because it is not so easily visible compared to Lee. Interpretive panels are planned to place the monument in historical context.

      • That makes sense.

        What do you know about McIntire? What was his motivation for the monuments?

        • A reader of the C-ville weekly described lingering resentment that McIntyre’s father had surrendered the city to the Yankees. He also created Washington Park (an actual park – and now Booker T. Washington Park) as a segregated community park space as he had seen in New York. Of course Central Park is another creature altogether! But he felt the town should see itself in larger terms than a county seat with Jefferson’s home nearbye. The 20’s saw the creation of the Jefferson Foundation, I believe, to fund full restoration of Monticello. Too bad we can’t switch Jackson for the s real Corp commander of the Confederate private whose statue ‘guards’ the Courthouse. which was Longstreet. The 19th Virginia had a number of Companies from Albemarle and surrounding counties. The 44th and 53-57 Virginia each had one company. But all were Pickett’s Division and Longstreet’s Corp. Do you know the story of the hatchet job the Southern Historical Society rendered on L’s reputation? His sin was to publicly endorse in 1879 Congress’s right to legislate civil rights matters. This goaded Lee and others to publish The White Sulfur Spring’s Manifesto; making Lee the Godfather of Jim Crow Segregation.

      • I’m all in favor of adding additional info to all monuments, as a dedicated reader of what our family used to call “hysterical monuments”.
        Kevin, do you or Andy know why there are a bunch of mostly Confederate generals (not from Texas) smack in the middle of the University of Texas campus in Austin? I was quite surprised to see them when I visited a couple of years ago.

        • They’re gone now, to be placed at the Briscoe Center for American History at some point.

          The University of Texas at Austin long had the distinction of being the “most Confederate” of all the major public universities in the South, “Colonel Reb at Ole Miss notwithstanding. That really began to change a few years ago when the University removed the name of William Stewart Simpkins from one of its dormitories. Simpkins was a legendary law school professor there in the early 20th century, who like to regale the students with his tales of the old days of being in the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. He was also reputed to be the Citadel cadet who sounded the alarm in the firing on the chartered steamer Star of the West during the Sumter Crisis in January 1861.

          The Confederate statues and monuments around the UT campus were largely the result of bequests from George Washington Littlefield, a former Confederate officer and an early regent of the univeristy. Texas Monthly magazine has a good explanation of how that came about here:

          http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/dunces-of-confederacy/

    • Dudley, I live in Charlottesville. Lee Park is the most central park in the city, and is used throughout the year for festivals, gatherings, and just hanging out. McIntire Park is bigger, but not visited that often (unless you play baseball on one of the fields).

      Paul Goodloe McIntire was a devoted philanthropist and white supremacist. The park that bears his name was given by him to the city on the express condition that it be for the use of white citizens only. Another park, Booker T. Washington, was established for the use of black citizens. Separate but equal.

      Moving the Lee statue and re-naming Lee Park is something that many of us Cvillians are very enthusiastic about. I’d love to see the Jackson statue gone as well, but if we can kick Lee out of the center of our city that will be a great start.

      • The information about McIntire is great context. There wasn’t a lot of information about him on the city website.

        • If I remember correctly, I think the Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Panel final report includes some information about McIntire.

          • Thanks, I found a copy of the report online as well as a lot of information about McIntire and the controversy (which unfolded over a period of time). It was all helpful in filling in the blanks.

  4. Kevin,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time but have never posted.
    I had to post on this one however.

    From the linked article>At that council meeting dealing with the Lee statue, Fenwick said he finds the statue to be symbolic of racism.

    The removal of Lee from a location of prominence in Charlottesville, Virginia exposes the great fault line of the debate and the hypocrisy and political correctness of the entire enterprise. Why is Lee to be removed? It’s not about his character, or his capabilities, or his skill as one of the great military commanders of the history of the world; it is about his leadership of the armies of a failed rebellion/country that supported the extension and protection of slavery.

    This is a legitimate criticism and worthy of discussion. But the location of this debate brings the savage problem of this politically correct revisionism into sharp focus. Monticello is located in Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson was a far greater offender against the black people of his time than RE Lee was of those in his. Will the next step for the Charlottesville officials be to shutter Monticello? The very idea is completely absurd. But the “logic” of this movement against CS iconography demands that if Lee must go, so then must Jefferson.

    What is the exculpatory argument in defense of Jefferson that fails for Lee or even for Forrest? After the war, Lee did everything in his power to ease the strains between the white and black communities of Lexington. There was nothing in him but acceptance of the new political and societal conditions and he promised and did everything in his power to facilitate peace and prosperity for the defeated South, both for blacks for whites. Is this not exculpatory? Nathan Bedford Forrest had 200 black people at his funeral and several black men as pall bearers, why? Why, because at the end of this life he had changed. Is that not exculpatory? Do these things rescue the reputations of these men? If not, why then does Jefferson sleep unmolested on his hill?

    Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. The only ones he manumitted were the Hemingses. There is good reason to think that he did this because he was their father, and Sally Hemings his mistress of many years. Such a relationship is an abuse of power and a clear hypocrisy on his part, and manumitting them but keeping hundreds of other Monticello slaves in bondage does nothing to rescue Mr. Jefferson from the arrows and criticism now so heavily aimed at General Lee. Why this contradiction? Why this cognitive dissonance?

    That Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence a document that declared that we humans are all created equal is not exculpatory. The fact of the document and his words, overturned in his own home and on his plantations, does little to help his case. Jefferson was a slave holder and a defender of the institution. When his friend, then personal secretary to President Madison, Edward Coles asked for his help to fight slavery Jefferson refused. Coles freed all of his slaves, and left the state of Virginia; at Monticello nothing changed at all.

    Where does this road of revision and historical correction, that is to make the past comfortable somehow for the present generation, end?

    It’s a dangerous path we are trodding and not a wise one. That our history is populated with contradictory people; that our champions of freedom were contradictory – speaking of human freedom as they owned slaves and supported the institution itself is fact. We have no option but to accept the contradictions of our history and of our past. We have no option but to learn from the past, if we can. We can do nothing at all to change it.

    Lee sits on his horse in parks across the South not only as a remembrance of the sacrifice of Confederate soldiers, but now as a warning to us all that even the greatest of men and women can make a wrong decision and walk the path of hypocrisy.

    These statues and Monticello itself should remain where they are, unmolested by our current hyper-sensitive generation of wannabe revisionists. That the purpose of these monuments has changed is clear, that is what a great monument ought to do- shift its meaning and value for each generation and for each time. These places and things stand silent, it is us (the present generation) who change.

    Lee should stay as a celebration of his character and a warning that even those with the finest character and talent can go astray and down the wrong path. We cannot change the past by removing monuments or criticizing some but leaving others unmolested for the same failures.

    I thank you most kindly for allowing me to speak my mind on this point to your large audience all of whom are deeply interested in the country and in history.

    Best Regards,
    Daniel Mallock

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. I want to focus in on one particular question you pose:

      Where does this road of revision and historical correction, that is to make the past comfortable somehow for the present generation, end?

      I would suggest that it never ends. In fact, I would suggest that the very act of erecting a monument or engaging in other forms of commemoration are often acts of revision. The erection of monuments decades after the Civil War often reflected values and memories that bore little resemblance to the historical record. In other words, we are constantly evolving in how we remember and commemorate the past.

      For many people in Charlottesville the central question is whether Lee reflects the values of the residents who call the city home. This is the same question that led to the erection of the Lee and Jackson monuments. Communities constantly re-negotiate their relationship to their commemorative landscapes.

      • >For many people in Charlottesville the central question is whether Lee reflects the values of the residents who call the city home.

        Thank you, Kevin.

        I am obliged for your swift and kind reply.

        My point is that every generation will likely have a different view. Our monuments should be immune to these generational changes or they’re not really properly understood as monuments. There are there with a message, we should heed it, all of it – good and bad.

        Why should this current over-loud, politically correct, hyper-sensitive generation remove from its current position a monument that should speak to every generation, now and following. To me, this suggests a superiority of the present generation, which is a view held very dear by Mr. Jefferson. Contrary to his view, I believe that we owe much to the past and to the future as well. This is an unreasonable approach in my view and a view that John Adams vigorously opposed as did many others. Each generation cannot create its own utopia expunging those images, things, people, and memories that aggravate them.

        The statues of our great heroes (or villains depending on your viewpoint) must stand, silent and looming, so that we now can learn lessons from them. It is unfair to ourselves now to remove them and certainly unfair to future generations of Americans who NEED the lessons of these monuments as we so obviously do today.

        Best Regards,
        Dan

        • Our monuments should be immune to these generational changes or they’re not really properly understood as monuments.

          Why? Certainly many communities in Eastern Europe did not think following the fall of Communism. Many of those monuments are now on display in museums, where they can be understood in a different context. Americans did not think so when they tore down the state of King George III on the eve of the Revolution.

          Why should this current over-loud, politically correct, hyper-sensitive generation remove from its current position a monument that should speak to every generation, now and following.

          Finally, lessons about the past come in many different forms.

          They do speak to every generation, just not in the form of its original intent. Again, I don’t understand why we are giving priority/legitimacy to the generation that erected these monuments, but not those that followed. Was not the generation that erected these monuments just as “hyper-sensitive” and “over-loud”?

          • It is interesting to think of what the impulse to create monuments is about, since it spans all of recorded history and cultures. The very nature of monuments, what they are made of and where they are placed, speak to a desire to communicate to the living and speak to generations to come. But it is very difficult to say what was intended in each instance. We read much into them but I think Freud probably got it right when he said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (He probably never said that, but it’s a great quote nonetheless).

            Here’s where modernity throws a wrench into things. Real estate prices, location, construction costs, and our inability to agree on just about anything ensures we aren’t going to make more monuments. So you end up with the statements people wanted to make a long time ago occupying key locations and no competing modern monuments speaking to what came after the old ones. That’s probably a big part of why these debates are so contentious. We’ve gotten a letter from the past but we can’t afford to reply to it.

            It is a shame we gave up on monuments, because one hundred years from now if anyone looked to see who the unifying symbols and important characters of our age were they would probably have to guess it was whoever founded WalMart because their were so many decaying monuments to his work.

            • I think you place a bit too much emphasis on monuments as codifying how a given generation remembers/commemorates the past.

    • “Thomas Jefferson was a far greater offender against the black people of his time than RE Lee was of those in his.”
      Somehow, I don’t think Jefferson authorized this: http://roberteleepark.blogspot.com/2016/11/robert-e-lee-has-his-slaves-whipped-and.html

      “Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. The only ones he manumitted were the Hemingses. There is good reason to think that he did this because he was their father, and Sally Hemings his mistress of many years. Such a relationship is an abuse of power and a clear hypocrisy on his part, and manumitting them but keeping hundreds of other Monticello slaves in bondage does nothing to rescue Mr. Jefferson from the arrows and criticism now so heavily aimed at General Lee. Why this contradiction? Why this cognitive dissonance?”
      Because the DNA evidence is not that clear. The DNA evidence was only able to narrow down paternity of Sally Hemming’s children to either Thomas Jefferson or one of his relatives. Given Monticello slave references to an Uncle Randolph who would visit them, and Thomas Jefferson having a relative of that name who was also at Monticello at the times that Sally Hemmings became pregnant, there is the possibility that Thomas Jefferson didn’t father Sally Hemming’s children at all.

    • “Thomas Jefferson was a far greater offender against the black people of his time than RE Lee was of those in his.”
      Wrong. You might want to do a little research on how Lee treated his slaves.

      “Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. The only ones he manumitted were the Hemingses. There is good reason to think that he did this because he was their father, and Sally Hemings his mistress of many years. Such a relationship is an abuse of power and a clear hypocrisy on his part, and manumitting them but keeping hundreds of other Monticello slaves in bondage does nothing to rescue Mr. Jefferson from the arrows and criticism now so heavily aimed at General Lee. Why this contradiction? Why this cognitive dissonance?”
      Because the evidence is not that clear cut. The DNA evidence was only able to narrow down the paternity of Sally Hemming’s children to either Thomas Jefferson or a male relative. Given Monticello slave references to an Uncle Randolph who would visit them, and Jefferson having a relative of that name who is known to have been at Monticello at the times when Sally Hemmings became pregnant, there is the possibility that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t the father of Sally Hemming’s children at all.

      • The relevant issue is not whether Lee was worse than Jefferson, but whether a community has the right to make decisions about how it wishes to commemorate the past.

      • I think that Annette Gordon-Reed made an extremely strong case about the Jefferson-Hemings relationship being an intimate one that holds up quite well under scrutiny with or without the DNA evidence. On top of her research which is flat out exquisitely detailed, the DNA evidence combined with the records make it clear that Thomas Jefferson was the father of her children.

        As for Jefferson’s position, the Hemings relationship is being revealed and shown to visitors at Monticello along with the slave quarters. The relationship is a wonderful way to educate people on the complex relationship between whites and blacks in Jefferson’s world. If anything, this does not destroy Jefferson at all, but shows us the real man behind the words. It shows us the hypocrisy of Jefferson and other slave owners as well as reinforcing Jefferson’s early statements about ending slavery.

        To me, we learn just how complicated this world was and it gives us great insight as to why the descendants of the men and women who established the United States would choose to commit treason against that very nation fourscore years later.

        • One issue that is rarely mentioned in discussing Jefferson and his ‘hypocrisy’ is that he is tacitly viewed as a kind of god emperor, who, if he had just thrown down the gauntlet, the southern slave states would have gone along quietly. Madison made it clear to Jefferson in Paris that the price of cooperation with the Constitution was protection of slavery. They could not have been compelled, as they would have jumped right into the arms of Europe’s banking family cabals. Was he to have declared war to gain emancipation? The northern states would have refused. Now which political entity will control the mouth of the Mississippi? If Virginia refused to sign the Constitution the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay is closed which isolates Philadelphia, presuming no national capitol at The City of Washington which would never have existed. Even a statement of opposition entailing pulling up all roots and moving north would have stoked the fires of confrontation. Would you start a civil war in such circumstances? One with no real end ever as the various amalgamated powers reached west to control the continent. As it was, the slave power of Charleston betrayed the Continental army under Benjamin Lincoln by threatening to throw open the city gates to the British if he did not surrender the army. Hundreds of members of the Virginia Continental Line languished for nearly two years in prison ships in the harbor. The horrors of the following Southern Campaign are well documented. A bargain with the devil? Yep. I see him somewhat like a bug caught in a web, not ‘free’ to simply ‘do the right thing.’ A somber picture.

    • There are many differences between the monuments and Monticello. The primary one is that Monticello is a canvas for the ever-changing need for revising historical nuance using an ever-expanding palette.

      The Monticello of today is vastly different form the Monticello of 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

  5. I find the insult that this issue is just about “this current over-loud, politically correct, hyper-sensitive generation” and the wish to “remove from its current position a monument” or that the goal is to “create its own utopia expunging those images, things, people, and memories that aggravate them” to be beyond unacceptable. And very wrong. If every statue and monument was gone tomorrow there would still remain the history, the images, the things, the people and the memories preserved as we have always done so in classrooms, books, museums, organizations, movies and lore.

    If every decision on monuments, statues, memorials, signs, naming, land use etc made by every generation was not allowed to be moved, touched, reinterpreted or torn down, how would progress ever happen? How would any community feel able to have their city or town represent them and not the past? It is not a legitimate argument any way you look at it, but when you know that the goal of the monuments was one of conveying the white supremacy message that “Dixie lives” and the monuments were meant to white-wash the rebellion that attempted to tear this nation asunder into being the romantic “Lost Cause for which they so valiantly fought” decades after the end of the war, the deaths of most of those “honored” and as the Civil Rights movement was being born it makes it even more suspect, tawdry and indefensible.

    We, the people, have every right to claim what our identity is, what our public image and face is, what our goals and values are and no monument should ever be able to stand in the way of that ability.

    Lastly, the major difference in Robert E. Lee (and the others honored with monuments) and Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and every other prominent slave owner is that only the Confederacy went to war with their own nation, their own citizens, their own relatives and friends to keep it.

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