Confederate Heritage Continues Its Retreat

In this article, we find Washington and Lee University has changed the names of some of its buildings as well as replacing some portraits. The university’s Board of Trustees announced “it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.” The article continues, “The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing. The board also ordered the doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel to be closed during university events.” Lee Chapel and Lee House will retain their names.

This article tells us historians at the University of North Carolina are giving a global context to the “Silent Sam” statue. “Co-sponsored by the UNC Department of History and the UNC Curriculum in Global Studies, ‘Monumental Histories’ was a panel discussion comprised of five faculty members from the UNC history department who talked about the contextualization of problematic monuments and memorials in South Africa, France, Germany, China and beyond.” The article gives us a sample of the discussion: “Art history and history professor Daniel Sherman began the discussion with a presentation on post-World War I monuments in France. He stressed the importance of looking into the context of a monument or memorial.  ‘They are political, and they are about us and if we start by recognizing that, perhaps we can find a satisfactory solution to the problem of commemoration,’ Sherman said at the end of his presentation. After Sherman, Jarausch presented on post-World War II monuments in Germany. Jarausch talked about the history, removal and preservation of monuments erected during the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Germany. ‘The overthrow of monuments is part of an effort to transform public memory. The choice is always between total displacement of prior memory or critical discussion on remaining memorials,’ Jarausch said during his presentation. ‘Therefore, the removal of monuments is only the first symbolic step, and one needs to have a public discussion in order to reshape an entire culture.’ History associate professor Flora Cassen discussed anti-Jewish artwork in early Modern Europe. She touched on the history and the current presence of anti-Semitic images and artwork in some Christian churches in Europe, and the controversy surrounding those images.  The panel discussion portion of ‘Monumental Histories’ ended with a presentation from King about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the absence of monuments acknowledging this time period. During the Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976 under China’s communist leader Mao Zedong, historians believe between 500,000 to two million people died, King said. Few historical monuments have been erected in China, but the time period is memorialized through Cultural Revolution-themed restaurants. ‘Young people say things like, ‘People in my generation rarely ever hear or read anything about the Cultural Revolution, so restaurants are really fun for us,”King said during her presentation. ‘For older people who actually lived through the experience, who were actual Red Guards at the time, it’s a sense of nostalgia. Needless to say, (these restaurants) are very disturbing for some people – people who lost family members, who experienced persecution themselves.’ ”

We also learn Texas students will be mandated to learn some real history, with some neoconfederate nonsense being deemphasized in the curriculum. The Texas Board of Education changed its standards recently. “The updated standards still include states’ rights and sectionalism, now relegated to ‘contributing factors’ in Texas’ participation in the Civil War, while slavery has been elevated to a ‘central role.’ ” According to Ron Francis, a middle school social studies teacher in Dallas, “The lies they’re telling are a little smaller than the lies they used to tell.” The article quotes some Texas social studies teachers who are trying to find their way with the changing standards. ” ‘I’m not supposed to teach reconstruction,’ said Marcy Emerick, who teaches 11th grade U.S. History at Akins High School in Austin ISD. ‘But we spend a day on it.’ This year, Emerick said she made a present-day connection to the institutionalized racism of the Civil War’s aftermath by showing a video of last May’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and discussing the removal of Confederate monuments. But sometimes she can’t teach all the historical lessons she feels are necessary, because of the demands of preparing students for standardized tests. Reviewing the board’s current proposal for cutting back the standards, she looked at a line that struck the mention of immigrant contributions. ‘Could I still teach that? Yes, I can. Can I still teach that and still squeeze in everything else?’ she mused. ‘If the whole goal was to make this simpler, that didn’t happen.’ … At United ISD in Laredo, high school teacher Gaby Mondragon looked over the proposed changes to the standards. ‘This does help me,’ she said. When she noticed a strikethrough over Clarence Darrow, an attorney in the 1925 Scopes Trial, she paused. ‘That makes sense,’ she said. While teaching the trial last year, she’d decided not to stress the names of the lawyers ­— ‘and then it was on the exam.’ ”

In Staunton, Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s name is being taken off a high school. “Starting in July, the school will become Staunton High School for the first time in more than a century, according to NBC29. The name was the most popular result of a public survey which also included Queen City High School, Shenandoah Valley High School, Valley High School and Shenandoah High School. Back in October, the Staunton City School Board voted 4-2 to no longer have the school be known as Robert E. Lee High School. This leaves only two schools across Virginia named after the Confederate general, an elementary school in Spotsylvania County and a high school in Fairfax County.”

In Tampa Heights, Florida, Lee’s name is being removed from an elementary school. “Originally known as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School, Lee took its second name in the 1940s, which [school board member Tamara] Shamburger described as ‘an era of white resistance to equality.’ She told the board and audience that ‘for anyone to assert that changing this name is erasing history or some sort of revisionist history is laughable and delusional at best.’ [Board members] Gray and Snively, while not disagreeing with Shamburger’s position, suggested that the board had not been true to its naming process, and that it had rushed the decision without adequate public input. Gray said the immediate Tampa Heights community was not the only one that should have weighed in, as the magnet school draws from the entire county. Board attorney Jim Porter, however, assured the members that the district had followed the policy correctly. A town hall meeting was not required, district leaders said, pointing out that other schools are named and renamed without such meetings. Shamburger made the case that now is the best time to make the decision, with the district embarking on a full reconstruction of the school. ‘I’m asking this board to finally heal this community, respect this community, and let’s move this forward,’ she said.”

We also find in Austin, Texas, “Austin ISD board members are voting Monday night on names for several schools named after Confederate leaders. The board decided to change the names earlier this year for John T. Allan Facility, Zachary Taylor Fulmore Middle School, Sidney Lanier Early College High School and John H. Reagan Early College High School. There is a slate of possible names to replace the confederate names, and the school district plans to have the new names in place by the beginning of next school year.

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