Reader suggests history lesson for African Americans

In response to the article “Rallies” in The Mechanicsville Local on Aug. 26, it does not seem to me that the NAACP lawsuit is not actually about African American students First Amendment rights being violated or exclusion from sports because of the mascots’ names. This article sounds more like the NAACP bullying until they “have it our way” as stated in the article; it was a desire to resolve this matter before trial date. Because the outcome previously made by the Hanover County School Board did not go Robert Barnette’s or the NAACP’s way, does not mean it was not resolved.

Interviewing one African American student and his opinion does not warrant a name change because one group feels the students did not get a proper education or excluded from extracurricular activities.

Let’s just stop with the negative comments as to why the schools were given these names but understanding that the names were selected to, yes, honor these great men who fought for their homeland and their means of living that were being violated by the North.

Seems to me that there is no difference in selecting those names than naming a building, a park, a street after such people as John Gandy, Martin Luther King, Arthur Ashe, Barack Obama, which may offend many others outside the African American race. Just as the African Americans and their special groups look at the positive things accomplished by these men, maybe they should all have a history lesson and look at the positive accomplishments of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson.

The NAACP is constantly talking about doing away with what they believe is painful to the African Americans yet they recently had a celebration ceremony in Jamestown regarding slave trade and was quoted as wanting the African American children to know their history. Sounds a little lopsided to me!

We are in a society where we are constantly trying to teach our children not to be bullied and yet here we are as adults doing the same. I encourage the Hanover County School Board to stand firm in its decision to keep the school names.

If we continue to go along the path of whining until we bully someone into changing things their way, racism will never end. In my opinion, you are only making it grow!

Mary Louise Smith

Mechanicsville

School division treats all people special

Hope you still have your Saturday, Aug. 31, edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. On page A2 there is a very interesting article covering an interview with Dr. Michael Gill, superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools (HCPS).

The article first began with a general coverage of the schools and the commitments to continue making HCPS one of the finest school systems in our state. A main emphasis was to take each child and encourage each one to “be the best you can be”.

The county is committed to developing a curriculum that will provide the opportunity for each child to meet and exceed his or her potentials.

I have been in a number of schools in this county and to see the smiling faces and laughter from these young people clearly states that each one feels that they are special.

To see the interaction of the teachers and students is a testament that each person is special.

Why is Hanover County Public Schools rated so high in the state?

Why do parents have as their goal to get my child into Hanover County Public Schools?

Why is there such a low turnover rate in staff?

Each person is treated as a special member of the Hanover County Public School Family.

Dan Johnson

Montpelier

School crisis: Is compromise possible?

Now fully immersed in the reformation initiative to change the identity of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School, Hanover County faces a difficult dilemma.

After the county was rattled by declarations that the identity of the schools were offensive to African-Americans, a public vote rejected the restructuring initiative.

Subsequently, the Klu Klux Klan fueled the impasse when members from North Carolina invaded Hanover and held a demonstration. Then the Klan allegedly harassed some Hanover citizens in an effort to step up its trouble-making agenda.

The Hanover NAACP filed a lawsuit against the Hanover County School Board and Hanover County based on the identity of the schools violating First Amendment rights.

While the litigation is underway, the school board’s attention will be diverted from its primary mission. And irrespective of any courtroom outcome, more damage to Hanover’s citizens is likely.

If the names remain unchanged, the NAACP, social reformers throughout America and liberal media outlets will step up claims that Hanover is a Dixie-whistling haven for racists and racism sympathizers.

If the school identities are restructured, Hanover will expose itself to an invasion of white supremacists similar to that which occurred in Charlottesville and which ended tragically.

Regrettably, a large number of people on both sides of the issue likely know little about the men whose names are the crux of the confrontation, relying mainly on the perception that Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis were racists who supported the oppression of African-Americans.

That discernment is correct in the case of Jefferson Davis. If he could be raised from the dead to face racism charges in a neutral courtroom today, he would undoubtedly be found guilty.

Davis, who was a Democrat congressman from Mississippi and a United States Secretary of War prior to switching sides and becoming the only President of the Confederate States of America, operated a large plantation in Mississippi with more than a hundred slaves. Simply stated, Davis exploited Negroes to enrich himself.

He also was alleged to have been an active participant in the Knights of the Golden Circle, an assemblage of racists that aspired to split the nation in two parts with the South expanding its territory and its role in slavery.

However, if Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson could be tried today, proving allegations of racism against them would be very difficult, if not impossible.

Yes, the record shows that Lee and Jackson owned slaves, but the motivation and circumstances surrounding their involvement were fundamentally different than Davis as were their views on slavery, the Negro race and the future of African-Americans.

Although Lee inherited about 60 slaves, a common estate-settlement practice in the middle of the 19th Century, he stated that slavery was a “moral and political evil in any country.”

He accepted the institution in America as the best option to maintain a workable relationship until the Negro race gradually assimilated into Caucasian society under the influence of Christianity.

He was pragmatic about the prevailing social, economic and educational disparities between the races in America prior to and during the War Between the States, believing the situation was harmful to both races with potentially disturbing consequences. With respect to that opinion, history has proven Lee to be prophetic.

And Lee’s gut-wrenching decision to side with the South over the Union, the other political body he treasured, was based on his loyalty to Virginia.

Following Virginia’s secession, in a letter of resignation to General Winfield Scott, Lee stated, “Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.”

And after the Civil War ended, Lee opposed the erection of memorials, again proving him to be a man of vision given the trouble that monuments have instigated in modern America.

As for the devout Christian, God-fearing Jackson, the six slaves who entered his household were treated decently, and they came to be there under different circumstances: Two teenage sons and their mother were given to the Jacksons as a wedding present; another requested that Jackson purchase him and allow him to work for his freedom; another, knowing Jackson’s good reputation, requested that he purchase her in a public slave auction; the sixth, a 4-year-old orphan with a learning disability, was given to Jackson’s second wife.

Although Jackson did not apologize for slavery nor did he speak in favor of it, like Lee, he understood that African-Americans were in a greatly disadvantaged predicament, and he believed the pathway to break the stranglehold of their bondage was Christianity.

A key supporter of the Negro Sunday school at his church in Lexington, Virginia, Jackson helped to advance slaves. And this commitment didn’t end when he was immersed in the War Between the States.

While Jackson was engaged in the Battle of First Manassas, he sent a note and a check to his pastor, stating that “… after a fatiguing day’s service, I remembered that I had failed to send my contribution for our colored Sunday school …”

Dishonoring the memories of Lee and Jackson by comparing them to white supremacists like Davis or those we see in modern America would be blatantly unjust.

History is the best tool to avoid repeating humanity’s mistakes, and the record of these men should be preserved accurately.

Hanover County is one of the unique places in our nation that citizens can visualize the sacrifices made for human rights.

Battlefields like Cold Harbor and Gainesville often connect visitors to the warriors that willingly slaughtered each other over divergent ideologies, something rarely if ever seen on the scale of America’s Civil War. As such, Hanover’s history has inestimable value to present and future generations.

Perhaps a compromise solution exists that would preserve Hanover’s tradition, yet assuage the sensitivities of those offended and also appease many of those against reformation.

Hanover is now at a crossroads with potential trouble in each direction.

Hopefully, the selected pathway delivers a peaceful outcome unlike the debacle in Charlottesville.

Daniel Corso

Mechanicsville

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