Confederate Robert E. Lee’s racist legacy fuels the U.S. renaming movement | Wall Street Journal Race News

As the U.S. continues to work to resolve the symbol of race relations and reverence confederation Who fought for the continuation of slavery in the 1860s, communities across the country are considering new ways to commemorate one of the most famous leaders of the rebellion: General Robert E. Lee.

To today, fraction The buildings, roads, monuments and institutions are named after Li. Thousands of children are educated in schools named after Lee; every January, a handful of states still celebrate “Robert Lee Day”, with portraits of the late generals appearing on monuments and memorials in dozens of cities.

Lee was an honorary officer from Virginia, who fought for the United States before the Civil War and married George Washington’s family. He won some of the most important victories for the Confederacy in the struggle to protect slavery.

For some people, Lee is a loyal man to his home state of Virginia. For others, his decision to fight the federal government in order to divide the United States made him a traitor.

But some people are reconsidering continuing their attachment to Lee, or changing the way they treat a person whose legacy has divided Americans to this day.

“What happens in our community is not a decision made by people who have long since died, but a decision we make today,” the historian and author of the book “Fake Reasons: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory” Author Adam Dobby told Al Jazeera. “Understanding the difference between the Civil War and celebrating the Confederacy, I think this is the key difference we need to make clear.”

A picture depicting General Robert E. Lee in the living room of a house owned by Wilmer McLean in Appomattox, Virginia, presenting to the Union Army General Ulysses Grant on April 9, 1865. Ulysses S Grant) surrendering his paintings of the Army of Northern Virginia [Illustration by Ed Vebell/Getty Images]

In June, many institutions agreed to reconsider their attitudes towards Lee or give up his name altogether: Lee’s former residence near Washington, DC was reopened to the public after years of renovation, shifting the focus to emphasize his life. Negro; A school in Florida was named after Lee; Charlottesville, Virginia voted to remove his statue from public land; The Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to hear arguments for the removal of the statue in Richmond; one Therefore, the university named by Li has a fierce debate on whether to retain the university of the same name.

“Lee has always held a unique place in the national imagination,” Pulitzer Prize-winning civil war historian Eric Foner (Eric Foner) wrote In the New York Times. “The ups and downs of his reputation reflect changes in key elements of American historical consciousness-how we understand race relations, the causes and consequences of civil wars, and the nature of a good society.”

Lee’s legacy was restored in the first half of the 20th century. He is widely acclaimed in a dazzling biography, is remembered as an institution with the same name, and is commemorated as a hero of the South in bronze and stone on public display. In 1975, members of the U.S. Congress, including current President Joe Biden, voted to recover Lee’s U.S. citizenship.

But in recent years, as Americans have begun to readjust their relationship with historically flawed people, Li’s image has declined.

“It is difficult to establish a comprehensive rule, but now the adoration of Lee seems increasingly inappropriate,” Foner told Al Jazeera.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the school board in an area with several schools named after the Confederate icon voted to rename them last week. A school with the same name as Li opened as an isolation institution in 1928 and was renamed Riverside High School.

The decision was made after five arduous school board meetings with hours of debate. Although many residents have spoken to defend the school’s name, the school also uses a Confederate general as its sports mascot, but a poll (PDF) Found that 59% of community residents connected to the school support changing it.

Virginia fights Lee’s legacy

Although the liquidation of Lee’s estate spanned many states, the debate was particularly intense in Virginia, where he was born.

In Charlottesville, white supremacists march In 2017, the city council voted on Monday to remove the statue of Lee from the local park, as well as another statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson nearby. Members of the City Council first proposed the removal of these statues in 2016, a move that triggered years of public debate, legal challenges, and demonstrations for and against the removal.

The city council said in a statement: “We look forward to transforming our downtown parks by removing these racist symbols of Charlottesville’s past.”

In Richmond, Virginia, the city used to be the capital of the Confederacy. A 13-ton equestrian statue of Lee has been a controversial lightning rod for many years, but its role as a symbol of debate. In 2020, killings broke out all over the world. And the protests that broke out George Freud.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam last year call Used to remove the statue, which is 18 meters (59 feet) high and sits on a base now covered by graffiti. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week.

Washington and Lee University is a university in Lexington, Virginia. Lee was the president. This week he rejected calls to remove Lee’s name from the school, but agreed to take steps to reform the institution. After months of debate and more than 15,000 comments submitted to the university’s board of directors, the university finally announced its decision.

“Although we heard widespread support for advancing our commitment to campus diversity, fairness, and inclusiveness, we did not reach a consensus on whether changing the university’s name is consistent with our shared values,” the university concluded.

This letter continues to apologize for its “past respect to the Confederacy” and its use of slaves. The university diploma with the statue of Li will be updated and his portrait will no longer be available, and the campus church named after him will be renamed “University Church”. The school also promised to stop the annual “Founders’ Day” celebrations held on Li’s birthday.

After years of refurbishment, Lee’s former residence in Arlington, Virginia reopened to the public in June, but made considerable changes to its historic buildings and interpretive signs. Located in Arlington National Cemetery, this mansion is operated by the National Park Service and received a $12 million restoration, and now elevates the story of the black slaves who once lived on the property.

Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial, seen from the garden, formerly known as the Custis-Lee Building, opened to the public for the first time since 2018, June 8, 2021 in Arlington Country, Arlington, Virginia cemetery [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

A bookstore that was previously located in a slave area was moved to a non-historical building, using this space to tell the history of slaves in the plantation.

“This is one of the main goals of the project. To promote the story of the enslaved people and enslaved communities in Arlington Palace,” National Park Ranger Aaron La Roca told Al Jazeera. “We are focusing on these stories. We are bringing them to the forefront.”

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