The Refusal to Understand Virginia’s Ethics
To all Delegates of the Virginia State House
Your decision to pass by a vote of majority the "Apology for Slavery" bill in the state of Virginia, is the opening of the door to further desecration of that portion of history which involves the American Civil War and it’s southern participants and their descendants.
Your passing of this bill is an attempt to prove that American history, as a whole unit, should and does not matter, but that only certain portions thereof are to be deemed worthy by this and future generations.
Your office holds that you each are an American. Do you extend acts of equality unto your constituents in a just manner? But who is being treated equal here? Or is it political correctness that consumes Virginia? The same political correctness that prevented General Fitzhugh Lee from receiving a Proclamation on his 170th birthday from the then-presiding Governor of Virginia, Warner, because General Lee was a "Confederate." Fitz Lee was Governor of your state of VA for 4 years and retired as a Brigadier General of the US Regular Army, having played a major role in the Spanish-American War. Fitz Lee did not own slaves. Yet, a proclamation in his honor was DENIED because of his connection to the Confederate service.
Prior VA administration had allowed a statue of a Black American tennis player who died of aids, regardless of how decent a human being he was, to be placed immediately beside a statue of General Robert E. Lee, on your famed Avenue of Heroes from the Confederate Army. Arthur Ashe was not a Confederate soldier who served during time of war. There is a significant difference between a war hero and a sports hero. A statue to Arthur Ashe should have been placed as a memorial to him in another area but no, it had to be placed in a position so as to deface a portion of history that Virginia cannot and should not ever deny. VA ancestors sent men in to fight–to their deaths–in what may have resulted in a lost cause, but it was a cause nonetheless, and now you disgrace these brave souls and their descendants by passing laws to appease some, and in essence let the rest of the nation know that you consider these brave souls unimportant to Virginia and to our nation’s history.
Now, with the proposed forced removal from Richmond of the Museum of the Confederacy, and a possible name change, we see our heritage further being slandered. That the word "Confederacy" in the title reminds some of slavery is simply ignorance of facts. Why doesn’t the American Flag remind some of slavery? Or the entire history going back to Biblical times? Why just the American Civil War, which, by the way, brought an end to the institution of slavery, already on it’s way out. A war wasn’t required to end slavery.
We all know that slavery was a great wrong. But it was wrong for many who suffered through servitude, not just the African-American. Why not ponder how many freed blacks had owned slaves? If you are not a historian, the answer might surprise you. How many Americans have considered the plight of the Native American? Where is the day to celebrate history?
February is black history month. Now the entire month of June will be held aside for celebrating the end of slavery. But a day set aside to honor Confederate history month was balked at and is kept under tight scrutiny. The nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because he had a dream, yet Virginia is no longer allowed to celebrate the birth of Robert E. Lee, who did not own slaves and who was perhaps the greatest American General of all time. The Lees were one of the founding families of Virginia. The image of George Washington, our nation’s first President, is not allowed to be viewed in American classrooms because he owned slaves. And what about Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, who did not own slaves? Is there a day set aside in Virginia to celebrate this great Virginian who began the first Sunday School of religion for African-Americans? You cannot view history through the eyes of today. History is just that–history–past. We need to preserve history and to learn from it, not abolish it. President Theodore Roosevelt believed that history was much needed to be relied upon in order to learn from it’s mistakes and go forward to a better future. Do we have a day set aside to celebrate President Teddy Roosevelt, a truly great American who did not own slaves?
Slavery did not start here in America; it was started in Africa–where it still exists in excerpt today. Perhaps the African-American people should be more aware of what is going on over there today than what had ended over 143 years ago. You have brought about great disrespect with your political correctness to we, the descendants of brave southern men who served God and country because their governments enforced war upon them. With only 3% of southerners having owned slaves, it is highly ridiculous to expect southern descendants to accept the blame for slavery. Regretting that slavery existed is one thing, asking for an apology for it is another. We descendants of southern heritage had nothing to do with slavery, nor did slavery exist only in the South. The second largest slave-holding state after South Carolina was New York. Were you aware that northerners had slaves, too? There is a very needy history lesson to be learned by all Americans who are quick to pass judgment. We might regret that slavery existed, but we will not–ever–forget that our ancestors of southern heritage–white and black–were brave Americans entitled to the same honor and respect as ALL Americans deserve, and we will not tolerate our heritage and our heritage symbols being defaced, maligned, removed, or disrespected at the expense of pleasing some.
As we would regard the ancestors and heritage of others, we expect that our ancestors and heritage will be justly regarded and expect that for the future, the Virginia House show fair and balanced regard for American History in all it’s portions, with all it’s rights and wrongs. History cannot be denied nor can it be re-written.
We cannot and will not ever forget the gallant southern soldier, nor should any Virginian ever forget that once upon a time, it was the gallant southern soldier–white and black–who defended your ancestor’s lands, homes, and honor, this before and during the time Richmond was consumed by fire and your city was left smoldering in ashes.
May God Bless Virginia on her 400th year of history.
Barbara Lee Rowe
President Order of Confederate Rose, Capt. Sally Tompkins Chapter #2, Gettysburg, PA
Member Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution