Statues and monuments are reminders of the past
The recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., reiterates the fact that virtually everyone agrees that racism is abhorrent. However, speaking as an historian, I am loath to witness our monuments to historical figures of prominence torn down as so many important elements of our history are then lost.
After Robert E. Lee, who will be next? George Washington led a rebellion to establish a new county that condoned slavery, and although he frequently spoke of the evils of “the peculiar institution,” he and Martha owned over 300 slaves. The principle author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was one of the wealthiest planters in Virginia and owned dozens of slaves. Are the reminders of these icons of American history to be lost as well?
Abraham Lincoln, who was clearly strongly opposed to chattel slavery, apparently would have allowed those states where slavery was legal to be admitted back into the Union — with slavery intact — prior to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. Shall all the monuments to him be deleted?
These statues and monuments can serve as valuable lessons to the young people of America, teaching lessons of tolerance, the destructive nature of war and the importance of forgiveness.
Should radical protesters, apparently unaware of the dangers of losing the valuable lessons of history, be allowed to remove these reminders of our country’s past, both positive and negative?