Virginia History. . . . . . . My History

I am a Virginian by birth and heart. My high school was Robert E. Lee High School named for the great Confederate general.  My grandmother’s family members owned slaves and my ancestors fought in the Civil War for the Confederate States of America. My great-grand father lost his farm and couldn’t feed his family. My mama said she was twelve years old before she discovered  that “damn Yankee” was not one word!  The”carpetbaggers” came from the north and plundered. General Grant was magnanimous in his victory, allowing  the Confederate soldiers to keep their horses because he knew they needed them to work their farms and provide for their families.  President Lincoln was very gracious in victory, but he was killed shortly thereafter.

And of course, there was the dark and evil shadow over the south of slavery.  The southern farmers were certainly not the first slave owners in history or the last.   Sadly we see slavery still practiced in the world  today with sex slaves and indentured slaves working in horrible conditions, as well as  historical stories of slavery in ancient Rome.  There are  horrible instances of  injustice in the world today  that many are working to eradicate.

That said, slavery  is absolutely wrong and evil, in history and today.   I wholeheartedly support  removing  the Confederate Battle Flag from any place of honor in today’s governments in the south or anywhere else.  It should be placed in museums  not destroyed and eliminated but there for people to see, remember , and learn from this dark history.

I have to say I was horrified at the thought of the talk of removing the statues of Confederate Generals in Richmond and other southern cities.  Isn’t this what ISIL has been doing in the Middle East? They  destroy temples and statues of other religions and historical sites with whom they disagree  to  try to wipe  away the faith system and history from  the earth.

While I was teaching, every January on Martin Luther King’s birthday, I told my students about growing up in the Jim Crowe south using examples found on the internet. I am a primary source.  I remember one of the last classes of third graders I taught in Arizona saying, “Mrs. Bell, that can’t be true!   You are making up some of your stories, right?”  I told them that sadly it was true and must never happen again.  We need to remember the inhumanity to man and NEVER let it happen again. People need to remember that  evil existed and still exists so as not to be able to deny  that period of our history. With the denial comes the risk and  possibility of  history repeating itself.

Genesis 50:20

The Message (MSG) (the story of Joseph from the Message translation)

19-21 Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.

Amen. . . . .  .

 

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 1:48 pm

The contentious nature of the Civil War won’t go away in Richmond when Confederate battle flags disappear from state license plates.

Smoldering remnants of the past flare up in unexpected ways in the former capital of the Confederacy. The blaze sometimes is literal, as when a banner of Robert E. Lee was torched on the Canal Walk in 2000, but more often it’s a blaze of words over monuments, names and, yes, flags.

“Any of us who’s been around the city for a long time knows that Confederate heritage issues crop up frequently,” said John Coski, historian at the American Civil War Museum and author of a 2006 book, “The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem.”

“Sometimes we handle it well and sometimes we don’t, and we end up on national and international news as the city that can’t get over the Civil War. What it’s really all about is trying to decide what does and does not belong on our symbolic landscape.”

After the Civil War ended in 1865, African-Americans moved toward equality during the Reconstruction era. From the end of Reconstruction in the late 1870s until the Civil Rights era in the 1950s and 1960s, former Confederates and their descendents regained power and used it to enshrine their vision of Confederate heritage.

Confederate heroes were memorialized on Monument Avenue. A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee was placed in the state Capitol at the spot where he accepted command of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate flag adorned the reverse side of Richmond’s city flag until 1992.

“Southerners who lost the war were completely free to put up monuments to their heroes, to teach history the way they wanted, to emblazon it on city banners. That’s what the status quo was for generations,” Coski said. “But it was an artificial status quo that had a lot to do with Jim Crow and segregation. A lot of people who opposed integration reached for the Confederate flag as their symbol of choice.”

African-Americans did not forget the flag’s association with slavery and terrorizing tactics of segregationists when they gained political power.

“They are part of the decision-making body (that) decides what belongs on the landscape, and increasingly the Confederate flag is being removed,” Coski said.

Stacy Burrs, who’s looking forward to Thursday’s topping off ceremony at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center, where he serves on the board, said “it’s remarkable what’s happening. It’s long overdue.” But it’s not done.

Too many statues and monuments remain for Confederate heroes, Burrs said. Too many schools are named for people who prevented blacks from getting an equal education rather than “people who worked toward a more fair and just community.”

Roice Luke, a former board member, complained about the Lee statue in the Virginia Capitol, comparing it to the display of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol.

“For me, that’s the Confederate flag in many ways,” Luke said. “That really should be in the Museum of the Confederacy, in my judgment. It shouldn’t be just a few feet away from George Washington in Jefferson’s historic building.”

Southern heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy still view the Confederate flag as a venerated memorial to their ancestors. But it’s also the kitschy emblem of the “Dukes of Hazzard” television show. It’s been adopted as a symbol by free-wheeling motorcycle gangs and appeared as a decoration on the guns of Ukrainian rebels.

“Those meanings all exist together,” Coski said.

Presenting the flag in an accurate historical context keeps it from being a divisive emblem, said David Ruth, superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park.

The second national Confederate flag and a yellow hospital flag fly at Chimborazo Visitors Center because those were the flags in use when it was a Confederate hospital, he said.

“It’s displayed as part of the story of Richmond Civil War history,” he said. “I personally have not had any confrontation from any perspective about the more present-day meaning of the battle flag.”

Paul Levengood, president and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, said that when Confederate symbols and structures are presented in their historical context, not on a license plate, it’s an “opportunity to engage history and learn from it, to learn something more about the people and times that erected it.

“It always strikes me as a dangerous path to say we need to destroy the evidence of the past because it makes us uncomfortable today or less than celebratory about our past. It misses the point of history, which is to understand the human condition and the events of those who lived before we did.”

The continuing flare-ups around Confederate symbols “remind us of how central the Civil War is to who we are as a nation, how it looms 150 years later over what we do and who we are as a people,” Levengood said. “In that regard, it seems to me it’s a reinforcement that history does matter to people. The past is not isolated from people’s lives and consciousness.”


About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
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2 Responses to Virginia History. . . . . . . My History

  1. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, as I did, you come to love Monument Avenue for its picturesque beauty. You also quickly come to the realization as you learn history of the contradiction of celebrating men who fought to preserve the right of plantation owners to have slaves. The contradiction is, for example, Robert E. Lee was by all historical accounts, a good and decent man who could have been remembered a hero had he chosen to fight on the side of the federal government instead of with his home state.

    While I have always felt it stupid for South Carolina to fly the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol, it distresses me that Walmart and Amazon have banned the sale of that flag, as though, that somehow solves racism. My ancestors were too poor to own slaves, and at least one of my ancestors who lived in Georgia in the 1820’s and then in central Florida for the remainder of his life, was a member of an abolitionist Christian sect. I’m proud of that heritage, that they knew and believed that “all men are created equal.” But his son fought for the Confederacy. Should I disown that ancestor just because he fought on the wrong side? Could he have been like General Lee? Caught between love of nation and love of state?

    That, I see, is precisely the problem with this current media frenzy. For most southerners, I believe their reverence for the stars and bars is in remembrance of their ancestors, not of the issue of slavery to which we virtually all agree was wrong. Should Germans disown their grandparents who may have fought in the German army in World War II just because the Nazi’s were in power? At some point, we need to follow the Christian admonition, “love the sinner, not the sin.”

    Our ancestors were both good and evil, as are all people. We all have two-faces. It is the face we choose to wear in our daily lives that makes the difference. Who among us lives perfectly free from sin? Nor did our ancestors live free from sin. The quicker we can forgive, the quicker we can become better ourselves.

    P.S. – Richmond’s Monument Avenue also celebrates with a statue of Arthur Ashe, a celebrated black gay man who was also a great tennis player. Yeah, and that’s because Richmond is full of racists and haters, right? (note the sarcasm).

    Liked by 1 person

    • annetbell says:

      David, thank you so much for this beautiful comment. I grew up in Shenandoah Valley but I know Richmond well. Thank you for reminding me of the Arthur Ashe statue. I agree with your comment about Amazon and Wal Mart pulling items with the stars and bars. That is not going to change hearts. And I guess it will be used as an example of “political correctness.” Our history is our history and that needs to be acknowledged, but for me, it seems essential to avoid hurting others by word, sight or deed. To me, there is no doubt that the stars and bars cause hurt so I feel it should be in museums only, as at least an acknowledgment and respect of the pain it represents both to the present and the past.

      Like

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