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Daily Journal
     September 27, 2021      #99-270 KDJ

Virginia could have done better 

By Ron Jackson

Less than a month after removing a century-old statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, in the city of Richmond, a new monument was unveiled this week. The state of Virginia could have done better.

After standing over 60 feet high for more than 100 years, the statue of Lee was removed after protests of racial injustice. While not in the same spot as the Lee memorial in the state’s capital city and also the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, a new reminder of slavery has been installed. The Emancipation and Freedom Monument depicts a 12-foot tall freed male slave and a freed female slave holding a baby in one arm and raising a document with her other hand.

Slavery was a bad period in our history. The ending of slavery was a good thing. Either we are to forget it and let it go or remember it all. We cannot have it both ways.

It is disingenuous of those who want to define the Confederacy with solely a pro slavery agenda. While slavery was a chief economic factor, the 11 states that made up the Confederacy had a greater cause for seceding from the union. The desire for each state to hold onto its own set of rights led to the decision to break from the political oppression of the federal government. Yes, the right to determine its own rules regarding slavery was prevailing factor, but it was not the only reason for going to war resulting in the sacrifice of more than 600,000 Americans. Still the largest fatality count of any war in our warmongering history.

I would argue that the second ugliest, most painful memory of our history would be the Civil War. We cannot and should not forget it. We cannot accurately depict the truth of that war with pictures of President Abraham Lincoln and formally adorned generals while hiding the brutal, gruesomeness of the war suffered by hundreds of thousands. Again, we cannot have it both ways.

We cannot continue into our future colorizing our past to placate our current insecurities. Slavery and the war partially about slavery are two scars we should not hide. Nor should we wear them as badges of honor. The truth about slavery must be told, no matter how brutal it is. Nor can we accept and project the claims that slavery was a racist agenda and efforts by white slave owners while refusing to acknowledge that some of the biggest and richest slave owners were black.

There continues to be a push to eliminate all reminders of slavery by removing any and all symbols accurately and inaccurately associated with slavery. Statues of Gen. Lee and others have been removed from public display. While the legacy of Antoine Dubuclet is secured in the Black American Hall of Fame in Louisiana.

Dubuclet was one of the wealthiest black Americans before the Civil War and one of the state’s biggest slaveowners. In the state of South Carolina during the 1830s there were nearly 4,000 black slave owners. One of South Carolina’s most prominent black slaveowners was William Ellison Jr., a cotton gin maker and blacksmith who supported the Confederacy with sizeable donations and even had a grandson join the Confederate Army.

Our history is rich. It is substantial in good and bad. Beauty and ugliness. Black and white. We accept it, learn and grow from it. We don’t hide it, and we certainly shouldn’t mischaracterize it to appease some modern narrative.

The puzzle that is slavery has many pieces. It is as if we want to show pictures of a beautifully prepared holiday dinner while eliminating all evidence of the messy kitchen where it was put together.

During my two brief visits to Virginia, I saw beautiful topography and rich history not given justice by any history books and chamber of commerce promotion. However, removing one reminder of slavery only to replace it with another reminder. The state of Virginia could have done better.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com.

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