Tag Archives: Stonewall Jackson

William Prince Ford & Stonewall Jackson: Black Man’s Friend

12-Years-a-SlaveIt is being reported that some of the descendants of slaveowner William Prince Ford are not happy with how he has been portrayed in 12 Years A Slave.

One was his great-great-grandson, 77-year-old William Marcus Ford,  who described the film as ‘too dark  and exaggerated’. He added: ‘By all accounts, my great-great-grandfather treated his slaves well and did his best for them. ‘He was born at a particular time in history when slavery was accepted throughout the South. ‘It wasn’t illegal. That doesn’t make it right or moral by today’s standards but back then it wasn’t an ethical issue. Northup saw him as a kindly person. He was a highly moral man.’ The film, says Mr Ford, ignores the fact that ‘slaves were regarded as valuable pieces of property and that it wouldn’t be in an owner’s interest to treat his slaves badly’. He said: ‘Good field-hands had worth. They were valued. A skilled craftsman like Northup would have been valued. There might have been a few bad apples, but I don’t think there was widespread brutality.’

The past few decades has witnessed an incredible outpouring of scholarship on the complexity of the master-slave relationship. The institution varied widely depending on both time, place and a host of other factors. No one should be surprised that as much as 12 Years A Slave has made room for meaningful discourse about the history of American slavery, it has also reinforced deeply entrenched positions and ideologies. For many a continued defensive stance is the only response. Continue reading

Defending Lee-Jackson Day from Me and My Followers

I haven’t linked to my Old Virginia Blog buddy in quite some time, but in recent weeks my site has received a great deal of attention from his little corner of the Shenandoah Valley. With that in mind I thought I would quickly return the favor by pointing out that Richard William completely missed the mark in reference to my recent post on Lee-Jackson Day:

Kevin Levin, who has expressed the view he saw no reason to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, posed the question noted above. Kevin and many of his followers would like to see the tradition of honoring Lee and Jackson in Virginia (and other places in the South) thrown on the trash heap of history.

This is news to me. I don’t see how any reasonable reading of the post could warrant such a conclusion. While I don’t have much of anything invested in Lee-Jackson Day I have absolutely no problem if others wish to acknowledge it in some shape or form. I attended a couple of Lee-Jackson Day events in Charlottesville, Virginia during my time there and even over the years brought a couple of my classes to view the ceremony. Whether it ought to be acknowledged by the state is something that Virginians themselves must decide and for now I think the holiday is safe. Continue reading

Lee-Jackson Day: Who Is It Good For?

lee-stonewall-jackson-graveI’ve enjoyed reading the comments attached to my last post, which featured Governor Terry McAullife’s first Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation. As readers have noted it contains a couple questionable references, but what I find interesting is just how hollow it sounds. What could you possibly learn about these two men from reading this proclamation if you had no prior knowledge? I would say, next to nothing and yet this is a state holiday.

As it stands the proclamation avoids anything that smacks of controversy. It’s an innocent reminder of a time long past when there was something at stake for a large number of white Virginians in acknowledging the two Confederate warriors and, more importantly, the Lost Cause for which they fought. For most Virginians today who are impacted by the holiday it is little more than a day off from work. With each generation our distance from the war itself grows and the emotional cords fewer. We are likely seeing the last hurrah from a generation that grew up or came of age during the Civil War centennial.

Looking ahead fifty years, I would be very surprised if Virginia and other Southern states continue to acknowledge Lee-Jackson Day.

Gov. Terry McAullife’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation

The new Virginia governor’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation is quite telling for both its brevity and especially for what it leaves out. Lee and Jackson are respectively remembered for their contributions to education in the Commonwealth and for their roles as military leaders, but no mention is made of the nation who benefited from that battlefield prowess.

WHEREAS, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were native Virginians, having served our great nation and Commonwealth as educators, leaders, and military strategists; and

WHEREAS, Lee served in the United States Army for more than three decades until he left his position to serve as Commander in Chief of Virginia’s military forces and as Commander of the Army of northern Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Jackson taught philosophy and military tactics as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington for nearly a decade before serving briefly in the United States Army and later joining the Confederate Army to fight for his native Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Lee dedicated his life after the Civil War to reforming higher education in the South by serving as President of Washington College, now Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where he helped to greatly increase the school’s funding and expanding the curriculum to create an atmosphere most conductive to learning for young men of both Southern and Northern heritage; and

WHEREAS, Jackson’s leadership and bravery enabled him to rally his troops to several improbable victories against opposition forces much larger than his own, and Jackson’s inspired “Stonewall Brigade” fought alongside General Lee’s troops toward another victory even after their leader was fatally wounded on the second day of the Battle of Chancellorsville; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting to recognize Generals Lee and Jackson as two of our nation’s most notable military strategists, as beloved leaders among their troops, as pioneers in the field of higher education and as faithful and dedicated Virginians;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Terence R. McAuliffe, do hereby recognize January 17, 2014; as LEE-JACKSON DAY in the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA and call this observance to attention for all our citizens.

Perhaps this proclamation falls in line with previous years, but it seems to me to be an exercise in saying as little about the cause for which they fought as possible.

“Our Focus is Educating People Today”

Bonus: Seems to me the Virginia Flaggers should be protesting the Virginia Military Institute over this decision. Let’s see if they do anything.

Everett-B-D-Julio_XX_The-Last-Meeting-Of-Lee-And-Jackson-1864_XX_Museum-Of-The-Confederacy-Richmond-VirginiaTomorrow is the annual gathering in Lexington, Virginia to mark Lee-Jackson Day, but you don’t get the sense that the diehards are very excited. Yes, the Virginia Flaggers will be there protesting a ban on their beloved flag on city light posts by marching in the streets with their Confederate flags. This remains one of the most ludicrous heritage protests of recent years as you are still permitted to wave as many flags in Lexington’s public places as your heart desires. You just can’t do so on public light poles.

You don’t get the sense from Brandon Dorsey, who organized the event, that he expects a large crowd. Continue reading