Rob Walker, Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers Remain Silent

There are still no updates to the story of a VCU student who supposedly prevented two white males from vandalizing the Jefferson Davis monument in Richmond on Thursday evening.  The Richmond-Times Dispatch has been contacted and is looking into this story as has the Richmond Police for further information.  The story was made public by Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers.  The student in question is Rob Walker Jr.  Some of you may remember that Mr. Walker left a few comments on my blog a few weeks ago in response to the posting of one of his Flagger videos.

I want the conversation to be about the content of his [Tripp Lewis] argument…. Like I said, I am unbiased. I am not for or against the Confederate flag. I simply wish to conduct an investigation into the issue.

Mr. Walker apparently hopes to be thought of as an objective documentarian of Flagger activities.  This can no longer be assumed given the fact that so many questions remain unanswered.  I emailed Walker last night, but have still not received a response.  Here is the email: Continue reading “Rob Walker, Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers Remain Silent”

Virginia Flaggers Foil Vandalism of Jeff Davis Monument

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Update: As of 05/12 inquiries have been made with the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond Police. Mr. Rob Walker, who is the VCU student has also been contacted.  Again, as of today nothing has appeared in the Richmond news about this incident. With the following words hanging over these unanswered questions let’s hope we can resolve it and focus on the praise that this individual deserves:  We do not believe there are ANY coincidences or happenstance in what has transpired since we began our work 20 months ago.  There is no denying God’s hand in this… in bringing Rob to Monument Ave. last November, and then, miraculously again last night at the exact moment and time to prevent what could have been irreparable damage to one of our most treasured monuments AND facilitating the first arrest (that we are aware of) of these punk vandals that have no regard for the rule of law:  neither God’s nor man’s. – Susan Hathaway, Virginia Flaggers

Over the years I have made my position on the defacing of monuments quite clear. I have zero toleration for it.  So, you can imagine my surprise and relief when I learned that someone with very close ties to the Virginia Flaggers stopped a couple of vandals from defacing the Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond on the evening of May 9.  The individual in question is a film student at VCU, who over the past few months has been chronicling the activities of the Flaggers.  You can read the following account, which has been circulated on numerous sites here, here, here, here, here and hereContinue reading “Virginia Flaggers Foil Vandalism of Jeff Davis Monument”

Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of St. Paul’s Episcopal

Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis all prayed at the church at one point or another during the war.  It was there in April 1865 that Davis learned that Richmond must be evacuated.  So, why the cold shoulder?  It’s hard to tell at this point, but here is what we know.  Yesterday the Sons of Confederate Veterans held their National Heritage Rally in the city, which was to include a panel discussion titled, “Debunking the Myth of the White Confederate Military” at the church  The panelists were to include Teresa Roane archivist at the Museum of the Confederacy and Eric Richardson, who is currently a graduate student in history at North Carolina Central University.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is doing some very interesting research at the MOC.  It is highly unlikely that the title of the panel or the panelists themselves were responsible for the church’s change of heart.  The panel was to be followed by a revival service at the church.  Apparently, at the last minute some time on Friday church officials canceled the event.

The day began with a small rally of SCV faithful at the Lee monument on Monument Avenue.  At least one unit marched while chanting the following:

What do we do?

Kill Yankees

How Many?

All of them

Would you want these people in your church?

Note: Updates will be posted as more information becomes available.

Keeping Robert E. Lee Right Where He Belongs

Update: The two posts on this subject have been combined for a short post at The Atlantic. Thanks again for the thoughtful feedback.

Students on Monument Avenue

Thanks to all of you who left comments in response to the recent story out of Richmond, Virginia, about the decorative art that was attached to three statues along Monument Avenue.  The goal of the protester was to remind visitors and others that Richmond’s history extends beyond its preoccupation with its Confederate and may have also wanted to show that the monuments in question were erected at a time when African Americans were barred from local government and the kinds of conversations that directly shape how a local community remembers its collective past.

The post (as well as the online news reports) brought out some very strong views, but I am especially intrigued by those readers who not only approve of the additions of the plaques, but with the removal of the monuments.  One reader had this to say:

I’m suggesting that’s an overly narrow framing of the issue, which should be: who gets to decide what messages take up our public space TODAY? Your view strikes me as giving too much privilege to the white supremacists who put up all the monuments in the first place. Just because they had that power once doesn’t entitle their “monuments” to deference for all time. I respect your scholarly approach to this, but I disagree – I’d rather see these monuments removed to a “Museum of Racism”.

I thought I would take just a few moments to clarify my position.  First, I don’t believe that monuments to the past necessarily warrant an indefinite life span.  I can think of any number of examples where I believe the removal of monuments and memorials are justified from the toppling of statues of King George III at the beginning of the American Revolution to the pulling down of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.  In those two examples, however, their removal functioned as part of the end of a government or revolution.  I’m sure we could just easily come up with other examples justifying the removal of a historical marker of one sort or another.

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Is This Vandalism?

This week the local newspaper in my former home of Charlottesville, Virginia reported that the Lee statue had been vandalized.  I hope the perpetrators are caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law.  I spent countless hours in that park with my students interpreting the monument and using the park to better understand how and why we have a need to remember our collective pasts.

Today I learned that three statues on Richmond’s Monument Avenue are now adorned with “street art”, though the extent of the damage looks to be minimal.  Apparently, a local artist with a political bent decided to remind Richmond’s residents that the city’s past extends beyond the Confederate heroes that line this prominent street.

On the Stonewall Jackson monument is Gabriel.

“Blacksmith, slave, educated man, Gabriel sought liberty and an end to slavery with a large-scale rebellion in the city of Richmond during the summer of 1800. His plot was exposed and he was hanged along with 24 other slaves.”

On the Jefferson Davis monument is Barbara Johns, whose portrait is in the State Capitol building.

“As a sixteen-year-old in Farmville, VA John’s led a student strike in 1951 to protest racial segregation in her school. The resulting lawsuit became part of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision ending segregation…”

On the J.E.B. Stuart monument are Mildred and Richard Loving.

“Interracial married couple, the Lovings were arrested and convicted in 1959, VA of miscegenation. They took their case to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 ruled in favor of the right for all Americans to have interracial marriages.”

As I’ve stated countless times on this blog, I have no patience for people who deface our public monuments.  At one time I may have been sympathetic with this type of alteration, but today there are numerous monuments and historical markers around the city that showcase its rich black past, including the Civil Rights Memorial located on the grounds of the state capital.  Like I said, I get it, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.