MLK Soon To Top Stone Mountain

Update: Thanks to those of you who pointed out my rookie mistake re: “the mountain top” reference in King’s speech. I guess it doesn’t really matter what speech of his they etch into that monument.

Over the summer, individuals and organizations protesting the removal of Confederate flags from public places gathered numerous times at Stone Mountain, Georgia in view of its relief monument to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. Protesters may think twice about doing so in the future since it was announced that a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a museum exhibit about the service of United States Colored Troops will be funded with visitor entrance and parking fees. Continue reading “MLK Soon To Top Stone Mountain”

The Paternalism of Richard Williams and His Best Friend

Update: Looks like Williams doesn’t like this post either. He seems to believe that what he has written has been distorted. That in and of itself is quite funny given the kinds of things he has written about me. You can read his book for yourself. Sigh. Finally, the timing of Williams’s own update suggests he was eagerly awaiting my response.

My friend from “Old Virginia” is once again disappointed with what I have written on this blog. In recent months he has expressed his displeasure more than once concerning a whole host of issues. A few days ago I offered a vague reference to a body of literature that includes Richard Williams’s book, Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man’s Friend. I referenced the subtitle of his book, but for some of the specific points made in the post I had, in addition to his book, a few other titles in mind.

Williams decided to write up a detailed response and I guess he expects me to respond. Well, I am not going to do that. Continue reading “The Paternalism of Richard Williams and His Best Friend”

Moving Beyond Stonewall Jackson’s Black Sunday School

There is a fairly popular narrative that places slaveowners at the center of a progressive movement to minister to and educate slaves in the decades leading to the Civil War. It tends to focus on high-ranking Confederate officers as part of a larger attempt to get the Confederacy itself right on slavery and race relations. One such book, which explores Thomas J. Jackson’s efforts to educate slaves in Lexington, concludes that he was “the black man’s friend.”

These accounts fail to place changes in the evangelical mission that many Christians embraced in the 1830s alongside the fear that ensued as a result of Nat Turner’s Rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. They ignore laws that barred blacks from preaching to free and enslaved blacks and they fail to address the emphasis placed on service and loyalty to one’s master as opposed to stories of liberation. Continue reading “Moving Beyond Stonewall Jackson’s Black Sunday School”

Charlottesville, Virginia No Longer Celebrates Lee-Jackson Day

As of this evening my old home of Charlottesville, Virginia no longer celebrates Lee-Jackson Day. The city joins other communities throughout the Commonwealth that no longer publicly acknowledge this holiday.

The vote is not so much a declaration that Lee and Jackson no longer deserve the kind of reverence they once received, but a confirmation that the community crossed this line at some point in the past. Representatives of the city’s chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had every opportunity to voice their displeasure and chose not to do so. This paid city holiday will likely be rolled into one honoring all veterans. That leaves room for those who wish to single out Lee and Jackson or anyone else for that matter.

Looks like Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers attended tonight’s meeting to make a last-minute plea.

We should celebrate a city that allows people from outside the community to voice their opinion. It is unlikely that city councilors gave much thought to Hathaway and the other members of the group who attended the previous meeting. The group plans to find private property to raise one of their flags as a snub to the community. That is their right. It’s nothing more than an indication that their message has once again failed.

The only question that remains unanswered is whether cities like Charlottesville can find productive ways for members of the community to engage one another around such sensitive questions of how their collective past ought to be remembered.

The Fate of Lee-Jackson Day in Charlottesville

UPDATE: City Council has pushed their final decision to March 2. Stay tuned.

I think it is safe to say that later this evening the Charlottesville (Va) city council will vote to end the practice of recognizing Lee-Jackson Day. The vote will place Charlottesville in the same camp as Richmond, Fairfax, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Lynchburg and Norfolk, which no longer observe the holiday.

It would be more accurate to say that the city council will make official what is already the case in practice. As a resident of Charlottesville for eleven years before moving to Boston in 2011 I can say with confidence that very few people formally acknowledged the holiday. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any formal recognition of the holiday throughout the state beyond the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage groups. They will and should continue to honor Lee and Jackson in a way that they deem fitting.

The story will make the local newspaper tomorrow, but that will be it. Apart from a few people in and around town no one will take notice. The Virginia Flaggers may make good on their threat to raise a Confederate flag in town, but to the discerning viewer that will only highlight the inevitable retreat of Confederate symbols in public places around the Commonwealth and beyond. Continue reading “The Fate of Lee-Jackson Day in Charlottesville”