The Boston Globe Visits Richmond

Slavery? What slavery>

Slavery? What slavery?

 By Peter Galuszka

An outside view is always welcome, especially in these incredible days when a lot of Southern mythology is being turned on its head.

Richmond is a great locus for the examination given its tortured history. The former Capital of the Confederacy (more by accident than anything else) is a true crucible.

The Boston Globe is running a series of articles from cities across the country examining how Americans citizens view their identities and how they are reacting to the fast-moving examination of slavery, the Civil War and the debates over its twisted symbols, especially the Confederate flag.

Globe reporter Michael Karnish starts with Ana Edwards, an African-American Richmonder, as she stands near the Jefferson Davis Monument on the city’s famed Monument Avenue packed with Confederate generals, Arthur Ashe and an aviator.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who led the insurrection against the United States, is praised as backing “Constitutional Principles” and “Defender of States Rights” (strangely similar to the conservative reaction to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage).

Nowhere is it inscribed about what the war was all about – slavery.

You might go down to Shockoe Bottom for that. It was once the second busiest slave trading market in the country. There’s a site for an old gallows, a “Burial Ground for Negroes.” Lumpkin’s Jail. Ghosts of about 350,000 slaves “sent downriver from Richmond over a 35-year period before the Civil War.

One of them was Anthony Burns, 19, who escaped to Boston in 1853 but was arrested under a fugitive law and after lots of public demonstrations, was returned to Richmond with federal troops at the ready. He ended up in Lumpkin’s Jail.

There’s not a lot in Richmond to remind about slavery. In fact, when one drives north across the James River on Interstate 95, the Virginia Holocaust Museum makes a bigger impression even though Virginia had nothing to do with the Nazi Final Solution.

The Globe reporter does a fair job of contrasting Carytown, the chic and artsy shopping district (that goes hand to mouth with the city’s annoying fetish for fancy food and craft beer) with other parts of the city that are chock full of impoverished people. One out of every four Richmonders is officially poor.

Mayor Dwight Jones, an African-American, discusses his plans to eliminate public housing and fill it with mixed-use and mixed-income developments.

The next page to turn will be the UCL World Cycling Championship where 1,000 international cyclists will converge on Richmond for nine days in September. It is expected to draw 450,000 spectators (as the promoters insist they be called). Jones is a big promoter.

But plans are to have the cyclists zip past the 1907-era Confederate generals and Jefferson Davis on the city’s most famous avenue about 16 times before video cameras that will be broadcast globally. What kind of impression will that make? Given Richmond’s enormous and unresolved image problems and insecurity, can it simply and politely avoid facing the past as it has for 150 years and expect everyone else to go along with it?

I wouldn’t expect Mayor Jones to come up with an answer since he has failed to do much to put a slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom, the most appropriate spot for it. Instead, he was pushing some kind of museum along with an expensive project including a minor league baseball stadium and bars and restaurants.

To be sure, I am not completely sure people or newspapers from Boston have a lock on any moral compass. I went to college there for four years in the early 1970s and heard so much self-righteous nonsense that I began to think of myself as a Southerner.

After all, in the fall of 1974, just after I graduated and went back to North Carolina, Boston erupted into racial violence over court-ordered busing to integrate its de facto segregated schools.

In this case, however, the Globe has a good perspective on Richmond. It is a valuable addition to the debate.

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32 responses to “The Boston Globe Visits Richmond

  1. That is a fine Boston Globe article, Peter. Thank you.

  2. Yes, the city has a real annoying “fetish” for nice thing that is unique to the city and not, you know, human nature. It’s also really odd the way promoters of a sporting event call the people who are going to watch that sporting event spectators instead of, what – gawkers? Voyeurs? Looky-Loos?

    But it was nice of the Boston Globe to give Mayor Jones a larger platform to hold forth on civic problems he has deprioritized for the course of his mayoral tenure. I almost, briefly believed he gave a shit about poverty. Especially the way they let him preen with his food donation. A-plus reporting.

  3. Boston had it’s own desegregation story:

    ” History rolled in on a yellow school bus”

    ” And when rocks and jeers greeted some of the children, Boston’s image was scarred forever. It wasn’t the whole story of day one of school desegregation, 40 years ago, or fair to the many not motivated by race. But it was real and terrifying and indelible.”

  4. And perhaps they should also zip by some condom-dispensing public schools, an aborto-matic and some AIDS and proctocology clinics, and an old folks “assisted living” warehouse or two, for a modern view of America, before getting mugged on one of many of those MLK Boulevards?

  5. Or, perhaps Richmond shoud erect a memorial reading: “This memorial is dedicated to the xxx,000 African Americans murdered by other African-Americans since 1960. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper? ” Next to it should be a memorial, proportionately smaller, in memory to the 5,000 blacks lynched by whites from 1865 to 1960 (roughly). What say? Somehow I think I know where the Liberals will be standing in hushed silence!

  6. Roesell,

    Your racism and rudeness is really over-the-top. Why don’t you find another blog?

  7. “Racism” is what Liberals say when they have been bested. You can dish it out but you cannot take it. I have urged you to restrain yourself. If you will not, then neither shall I. Liberals think invective should be their monopoly. You play nice and so will I. Your move, boss.

  8. I haven’t been “bested.” You haven’t made an argument other than spout race-baiting crap.

  9. To note Liberal hypocrisy on racial matters is hardly “race-baiting.” That is the province of David Duke and “Rev.” Al Sharpton, a member-in-good-standing of the political establishhment. I believe that blacks are capable of behaving better, but despise it when Liberals enable their bad behavior, but are always on the look out for white mischief. Very selective!

    • better to be one of those nasty liberals than the nut cases rolling around these days.

      There Are More Blacks Under Correctional Control Today Than In 1850 Slaveholding America … More Are In Jail Than In Apartheid South Africa … And More Are Disenfranchised Than The Year The Constitutional Amendment Giving Blacks the Right To Vote Was Ratified

      Blacks Possess Drugs Less Frequently Than Whites, But Are Put In Prison Much More Frequently – And For Much Longer – Than Whites

      The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world … higher than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Iran.

      While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

      But all people aren’t treated equally .. African-Americans are treated especially poorly.

      Michelle Alexander – a law school professor who directed Stanford Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic and served as law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun at the U. S. Supreme Court – notes:

      The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of black men than South Africa did at the height of apartheid

      Primarily because of these significant incarceration rates, the level of black youth poverty is higher today than it was in 1968

      An African-American male is sentenced an average of a 20 to 50 times longer prison term then a white male convicted of the same drug crime.

      Over 2.3 million men in America are in prison — about half for drug crimes.

      Seventy percent of all men imprisoned are black or Hispanic. Thirty years ago, before the “War on Drugs” was implemented, there were only 300,000 people in the American prison system.

      There are 2.7 million children whose fathers or mothers are in prison, on probation, or on parole.

      There are 7 million Americans either in prison, on probation, or on parole — mostly for selling or using drugs. In many inner cities, eighty percent of young men have prison records.

  10. Yes, Larry, and so this misfortune of black folks is all the result of evil white people, rather than those black people behaving in evil ways? Isn’t that right? Black people, obviously, have no moral agency in the Liberal worldview. Being mostly secular, Liberals don’t believe that blacks, or whites for that matter, have souls. Right? Oh, contrare! They DO have souls, and they can, and should, be held accountable for their bad, and good, actions. Stop making excuses.

    • it’s the fault of ignorant policies… you and and others including Bacon’s pejorative use of the word “liberal” is lame and bogus – the technique of nut jobs…

      hows that?

      posting facts is not making excuses. people who can’t deal with the facts have to name call and find others to blame.

      the facts are that for whatever reason and that include both black and white races – we have a big problem… and we have folks who recognize the problem and know we need to change – and we have ..the haters who want to do nothing but blame “liberals”.

  11. Thanks, Larry.
    I know that everyone has a right to her or his views, but if you really spout baseless, tasteless trash, one wonders whether it is worth participating on this blog. I enjoy and respect a good argument with someone of other views, but this is nonsense and a waste of time.

  12. The tasteless reality I noted is the result of Liberals’ own determined activism. Why are you so offended by what your own side has created? Which is worse, to create this nastiness or draw attention to it, and thereby criticize it? If you don’t like these things, then, by all means, don’t support them. And, please, don’t blame Conservatives for things that we have opposed. You have noted the ugly underbelly of antebellum Virginia, and the South, of which I do not deny, and even could add to. But, just remember, that our own age has its own major blemishes, too. When you start pointing fingers at others, they will point back. Just remember who started this thread. Liberals much prefer monologue to dialogue and are shocked when they actually get it. Be careful what you ask for.

  13. Literally having just returned from Boston where I read this article in the Globe, I want to note that there is (or perhaps was as there wasn’t a letter in this morning’s Globe) a “letter” campaign about the Massachusetts flag and the overtones in its vicious history against Native Americans.

    As Mr. Galuszka notes, Boston — especially South Boston — has its own dirty little history of anti-Black attacks in the 1970s culminating in a horrifying Pulitzer-Prize-winning photograph of a White man attacking a Black man (being held by other White men) with Old Glory in front of the courthouse. I urge folks to look it up. It truly gives one pause.

    Whenever humans think in terms of the “other,” — whether that be “liberal-conservative,” “black-white,” “north-south,” “male-female,” “young-old,” “cop-citizen,” whatever — one somehow manages to let go of humanity and can often say/do things without even an awareness of their actions.

    “Us-them” thinking causes amazing hell. “They” — whoever they are — are just as screwed up as we are, no more and no less.

  14. “Totalitarians are a different breed. These are the people who have a plan, who think they see the future more clearly than you or who are convinced they grasp reality in a way that you do not. They don’t serve themselves—or, they don’t serve themselves exclusively—they serve History, or The People, or The Idea, or some other ideological totem that justifies their actions.

    They want obedience, of course. But even more, they want their rule, and their belief system, to be accepted and self-sustaining. And the only way to achieve that is to create a new society of people who share those beliefs, even if it means bludgeoning every last citizen into enlightenment.

    That’s what makes totalitarians different and more dangerous: they are “totalistic” in the sense that they demand a complete reorientation of the individual to the State and its ideological ends. Every person who harbors a secret objection, or even so much as a doubt, is a danger to the future of the whole project, and so the regime compels its subjects not only to obey but to believe.”

    This is what George Orwell understood so well in his landmark novel “1984.””

    For more details See:

  15. I think that the key to resolving these different perspectives on race and history is to treat it like Americans already treat, for the most part, differences in religious belief. Some are Roman Catholic, others are Protestant, Mormons, or Jews, or Muslims, Atheists and Agnostics, and in my own case, I am a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I certainly have views about each of these groups, critical, but also, sometimes, favorable, depending on what one is talking about, but I do not go around “bad mouthing” them in public, even though, historically, some of these groups have been quite antagonistic to my Faith. If one wants to have religious peace in a religiously pluralistic society like ours, then we must exercise a certain degree of self-restraint, and the same in our racially and ethnical diverse society. Or, if one is going to criticize, do so in a way to make sure that you do not mean that ALL members of the other group(s) are extremist. In the case of Muslims, we can see that the corporate Liberal media routinely bends over backwards, to defend, sometimes rightly, Islam, from the view that all Muslims are extremists. While my own view of Islam is less rosy than these media reports often purport it to be, I do recognize differences in strain, interpretation, time period, region, in characterizing Islam and Muslims. I only wish that detractors of the Confederacy could exercise a similar degree of “discrimination” when making their critical remarks of it, and those who revere it today. It is precisely this lack of sensitivity that is so frustrating. I do not ask that Peter or anyone else favor the Confederacy, they are even free to heartily disdain it, but at least try to show some charity towards those of us who think otherwise, and not go out of your way to impugn our heroes in public. This rudeness can lead to calamity in our country, and I pray that all sides will show more restraint and respect for the rule of law and civility. But if Liberals are “bound and determined” to crush our identity, we will not let them. Even if they prevail today in the courts and in the mass media, they must know that “we aren’t going anywhere,” and we will hang in until times change. We will survive this time, by God’s grace, and restore what they rob from us. Better, however, to put aside all this hardness, and have, as someone once said, “charity toward all, and malice toward none.”

    • do you think if a Muslim shouting allahu akbar killed 9 folks in a white church.. it would be reacted to differently than the actual Charleston killing?

      I do not understand the current religious mindset to be honest.

      As far as I know the govt has not squashed the Amish or the Hutterites, Mennonites, Mormans, snake handlers, Scientology, Buddaism, etc… so what is this really about?

      One of the big differences is that I do not see the groups mentioned above – insisting that their values be represented in the law and Constitution and that if it is not – it’s perceived as the govt acting against them.

      With regard to Islam.. there are 1.5 BILLION Muslims on earth including countries like Indonesia…the 4th largest country on the planet.

      Is Indonesia at war with us?

  16. I think the Charleston Massacre rightly received the coverage that it did. Dylann Roof committed a horrible atrocity, and as I have said before, he deserves the death penalty. I don’t understand your point about a hypothetical Muslim massacre in a white Christian congregation. The reaction would be more muted. There would be no calls to ban Muslim symbols or close Mosques, and there should not be any such ban, of course. But, when someone sports a Confederate flag, goes on a rampage, then Liberals call for such a ban, and even more, as we are already hearing. Why the double standard?

    • Andrew – you seriously don’t think people would go APE-CRAP if roof had been a Muslim shouting allahu akbar as he mowed down parishioners?

      here’s my take on the Confederate Flag.

      polls show that most people consider it a symbol of heritage.

      but people also KNOW that racists also consider it more than just a symbol of Southern Pride and have – made it a defiant symbol of racism.

      and if you don’t believe this – look at the polls asking whites and blacks about that symbolism.

      My view? If 80% of blacks tell me it’s a racist symbol to them – I accept that as a reality … and a deal-breaker if ignored in trying to better race relations.

      I’d do the very same with ANY ethnic group trying to assimilate into our diverse society.

      you don’t rub folks noses in things that they tell you will not be received as a friendly act.

  17. Larry, I don’t doubt the poll results but also believe that those results are conditioned by the intense public campaign by Liberals to demonize the flag. It’s like saying, “we will smear this fellow’s reputation and then ask people if he should be turned out of office or fired from his job.” It’s hardly fair. This campaign has been going on for decades. It becomes “true” by constant repetition. The Cross of Christ could be banned under such reasoning if some Jews or Muslims, or Atheists, cite their repeated exposure to bad Christians and their misuse of the Cross, i.e. the Inquisition, the Crusades, etc. Likewise, Orthodox Christians could demand that the Muslim Crescent be banned because of their terrible centuries of invasions, massacres, occupations, etc by Arab and Ottoman Turkish Muslims. In addition, besides these points, Blacks need to be held to the SAME standards of tolerance that whites are held to. As it is, Black “subjectivity” becomes a final, and apparently unending, veto on everything in these matters. That is inherently unfair. That is INEQUALITY in the name of equality. This is bad for race relations. It is better if people are allowed to “agree to disagree,” without being villified.

    • Andrew – blacks have felt that way since the Civil War guy. Why do blame “liberals”?

      If you don’t honestly seek the truth here – all you’re doing is justifying your own purposeful ignorance.

      you need to get off the liberal crutch… and look for real answers…to issue.

      otherwise you’re just going to end up being yet another reactionary.

      re: ” Blacks need to be held to the SAME standards of tolerance that whites are held to. As it is, Black “subjectivity” becomes a final, and apparently unending, veto on everything in these matters. That is inherently unfair. That is INEQUALITY in the name of equality. This is bad for race relations.”

      An entire race of – People who have suffered generational slavery are not going to have the same perceptions as white folks who never were enslaved or whose ancestors were the enslavers and the generational family benefited economically.

      If they tell you that – for generations – they have reviled a symbol of racists – and your response is ” inequality in the name of inequality” – how are you ever going to reconcile? How are you ever going to accomplish anything beyond – generational racial hatred… ?

      and WHERE is your religious values?

      It’s like you completely reject the history…

  18. No, Larry, I don’t see the matter the way you do. Many Blacks, even today, especially in the South, do not view the flag in the light you ascribe to them. I am sorry that many of them do, but, yes, I blame that on white Liberals, who are forever “waving the bloody shirt,” which undoubtedly keeps Democratic “voter paricipation” up. So, I don’t agree with your premise, nor the conclusion that you deduce from it. In any case, your assumption, again, is to make your understanding of blacks, whether right or wrong, the decider of the matter. I reject that assumption. My reading of history tells me differently. Again, the need to “agree to disagree,” rather than impose on one another is what is needed. Otherwise, I will lead a ban on bakeries making croissants as offensive to my sensibilities! ;-)<

    • Andrew – where are you getting your views from?

      ” A CNN poll taken last week shows that overall, the majority of Americans believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride, not racism.

      Fifty-seven percent of Americans view the Confederate flag as a “symbol of Southern pride,” while only 33 percent think it’s a “symbol of racism,” and five percent think it represents both equally.

      But seventy-two percent of Blacks surveyed view it as racism, while only 25 percent of whites do.”

      is this poll wrong?

  19. Which means that 28% of Blacks do NOT view it as “racism.” Considering today’s climate of hysteria, that is a fairly high number. A swastika would garner a 100% anti-Jewish understanding. It was and is that. Liberals try to equate the Confederate Battle Flag with the swastika, but they are not equivalent in that way. Liberals seem unable to live at peace with those with whom they disagree. Just like the Puritans!

    • Andrew – that’s about 3/4 of blacks guy.. you’re going to ignore that in favor of the 28%?

      The 72% blacks are not “liberals trying to equate the battle flag”.

      you’re basically choosing to ignore the vast majority of blacks so you can continue on your “blame liberals” thinking.

      I do not get it. forget the liberals guy. what do 72% of blacks think?

      do you just reject that ?

      I think I’m done talking with you.. it’s not agree to disagree.. it’s that it appears you’re so locked in to your thinking – that I just don’t see you changing .. ignoring 72% of anything is basically denial basic realities..

      I accept what the vast majority of blacks are saying… it’s as simple as that.

  20. Yes, I reject the 72% of brainwashed Blacks, in terms of disagreeing with them. The majority is not always right. In this case, the 28% have held firm against all of the Liberal demogoguery. I salute them!

  21. You’re welcome, Sir!

  22. Andrew Roesell –

    I’ve been reading your comments closely for only perhaps two weeks. Hopefully what I say now will not embarrass you, be deemed sentimental or “over the top” by you. What I say I consider self evident from most of your comments.

    In my views, your words evidence someone who is not only knowledgeable, but wise and learned, intellectually and emotionally. To my mind these are the words of a humanist who is broadly tolerate while rightly skeptically and a realist, a classic liberal in the best sense of that word . A man who lives, thinks and deals with real matters of substance and consequence, who’s character driven, imaginative and highly nuanced, and unafraid.

    That is what many of your comments tell me, although obviously I do not always agree. So I hope you will continue on the blog despite whatever reasons you might rightfully have to do otherwise.

    On a related matter:

    Not so long ago I sat a church listening to a woman speak of her past going back 8 generations. She’d worked very hard to reconstruct that past. She had to. It had been stolen from her.

    It had been a theft of her own history, that of her kin and their people, and their world, and their place in the world and others living in it with them.

    So she quietly and respectfully told of a monstrous theft.

    One whose totality had been twisted and often deeply hidden, a history driven underground by brute force, coercion, fear, ignorance, and shame.

    There her and her people’s history had lay buried in an awful silence and web of simmering lies for 8 generations of two deeply intermixed cultures.

    The greatest of all holocausts is the destruction of a peoples’ history. All cultures know this. That is why the Romans destroying Carthage left not a stone unturned. Otherwise the pain and hate of victims easily multiplies, gathering force without solution for untold generations, before it returns.

    That evil that seeks such a cultural holocausts of whole groups of people and the hate that drives it is alive and well, growing daily right now in our time.

    Thus, the woman in the church quietly, with the kindest expression, told how her grandfather from 8 generations back, refreshing himself in a cove after a day’s work in the hot son, failed to walk out of that water on the count of four, so was shot through the chest and died.

    It was no accident.

    A overseer, the worst in the county, said the woman, told the young and new plantation owner to shoot her Grandfather 8 generations back in the chest to kill him. Otherwise, he said, the young new plantation owner would lose the respect of his slaves, their fear of his authority.

    So the young plantation owner shot his slave, and they hauled him off and that was the end of the matter.

    And there it remained for 8 generations of silence till the lady at the front of the church dug out the truth and ended the silence. So on that Saturday more than 150 years later, those two cultures sat in the pews of that church confronting that long hidden truth, likely the kin on both sides of the story.

    The power of her telling (gentle, quiet, authoritative) made me treble. I felt something more deeply and wisely than ever before. It was a gift, most likely to everyone there, in many deep and different ways.

    That’s how I heard her story then and later meditating on it.

    I suspect the lessons here, and motives they reveal, apply, at least two ways.

    Those who want to tear down other people’s history, erase the memory of other peoples dead, too often want nothing more than another Holocaust, or are too irresponsible or ill informed to appreciate the grave risks they run.

    And those who refuse to or try to stop building monuments to the history of other peoples, whose history has been stolen from them, are no better.

    Hence, in my opinion, the merit of the Boston Globe article.

  23. Dear Reed,
    Thanks for your kind words.
    The God I worship, God the Holy Trinity, is a loving and merciful God. He hates oppression and cruelty. He will repay all such overseers and slaveowners as you describe, those cruel and unrepentant, with an unquenchable fire that will make Sherman’s cannons and torchers seem like a cold beverage. Likewise, He will succor such as those who suffered in this world at their hands, and who loved Him and forgave their oppressors, with everlasting good things. I know that such things happened in the South, and perhaps, that is why God allowed Northern arms to prevail. I do not know. That means I do not know for sure the widespread state of things then, and in any case, view the Abolitionists zeal to use force, then and now, with grave suspicion and alarm. I am not prepared, or able, to judge my ancestors own personal guilt, or their contemporaries, and hope that they were kindly disposed to their own slaves in Maryland. In any case, God knows the truth of these things. I leave their fate, and that of our own, and, indeed, all peoples, in His Hands. But I also will heed the call to speak truth to power, for that I believe is my calling as a Christian. All I ask is that those who are critical of the Confederacy and of White Southerners as a whole, exercise a certain discrimination, not equating a Wade Hampton with a Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman or a Cole Blease. It is precisely their “indiscriminancy”, to coin a word, perhaps, that I find so off-putting. They seem more driven by hatred than love. They seem to offer us “no quarter.” That is why I fear and distrust them.

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