Category Archives: Virginia history

What We Want the Future to Know About 2020

Janice Underwood and First Lady Pam Northern place items in new time capsule Photo credit: Bob Brown/Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Several  commenters to the previous post on the removal of the Lee Monument expressed interest in the items that were placed in the new time capsule that was to be placed in the base of the former Lee Monument.

According to a news release from the Governor’s office, these are the items: Continue reading

Lee Monument Removed

Photo Credit: Bob Brown/Times Dispatch

Yesterday morning the Lee Monument, the last major and most prominent celebration of the Lost Cause, was removed. Virginia and Richmond have now truly embraced the 21st Century.

Make “Contextualization” Open, Vibrant, Dogma-Free

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has taken down the statue of Indian fighter George Rogers Clark and is expunging other monuments and tributes to individuals who fall short of lofty, progressive 21st-century ideals. President Jim Ryan has promised that the statue to Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder, will stay. But it will be “contextualized.”

What that contextualization will look like is anybody’s guess. The project has been handed to the “Naming and Memorials Committee” for elaboration. Will Jefferson be portrayed as a founding father and progenitor of principles that guide the United States today… or a slave-holding rapist? It is too early to say.

What we do know is that considerable thought has been given to the machinery of contextualization. Whatever the message may be, it will be delivered digitally. Envision standing near the Jefferson statue, or the Rotunda, or the Lawn, or other spots deemed worth of recognition, such as the Black Bus Stop, the Ginger Scott Case, or the Coat and Tie Rebellion. You can take out your smart phone, scan a QR code, and access text and audio descriptions.

But there are warning flags galore as to where this initiative is heading. Continue reading

On the Renaming of Community Colleges

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A school task force has recommended that John Tyler Community College be renamed Brightpoint Community College.

I can understand getting rid of the John Tyler name. He was a slaveholder and a member of the Confederate Congress. He also happened to be a former president of the United States, but only because William Henry Harrison died from pneumonia after a month in office. Tyler was not a founding father and his presidency was undistinguished.

But Brightpoint? I’m sorry, but that is a stupid name. It sounds like one of those made-up names for banks. Continue reading

Community College Libels the Man It Was Named For

Lord Thomas Fairfax

by John Thomson

Present-day controversies on renaming institutions are often about whether we judge the worth of our historical figures by the singular issue of slave-owning.

One particular controversy needs a referee to call a foul: over a historian’s error in a biography of the English lord, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1693-1781).

Fairfax lived at Greenway Court, one mile from White Post, Virginia. He had moved from England to manage 5 million acres of an inherited land grant. He resided here, became a part of local history, and was buried in Winchester.

Several decades after the biography was published, the error was unearthed and recently used to justify effacing his name from the local 50-year-old Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). Continue reading

A Cavalier Disregard for Historical Documentation

Map of South America showing the meridian dividing the new world in Pope Alexander VI’s papal bull.

The University of Virginia in recent years has devoted considerable resources to an excavation of unpleasant aspects of its past, from slavery and Jim Crow to the dispossession of land from the Monacan Indians. Other than the controversy over Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, the scholarly findings have rarely been disputed. Perhaps this scholarship warrants a closer look.

Steve Adkins, an amateur historian who claims 25,000 hours of independent study, alleges several factual errors in the Encyclopedia Virginia maintained by UVa as well as UVa professor Jeffrey Hantman’s book, “Monacan Millennium.” In the narrative below, he describes the failure of Hantman, the University of Virginia Press, and university authorities to correct them. His account delves into historical minutiae that may enthrall only antiquarians. But his charge that UVa humanities and social sciences are afflicted with “an arrogant facts-be-damned, circle-the-wagons culture” may be of interest to a wider audience. — JAB

The loss of academic freedom on American campuses has been accompanied by the erosion of academic rigor. I offer this outsider’s glimpse.
Continue reading

Wait, What? Was Patrick Henry a Good Guy or a Bad Guy?

Patrick Henry

by James A. Bacon

Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing in the Northam administration? On the one hand (as recounted on this blog), the State Board for Community Colleges has ordered the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) in Martinsville to change its name. Henry, once revered as a founding father, is now problematic. He owned slaves. The PHCC board is resisting the name change, and the dispute is ongoing.

Meanwhile, nine days ago, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation declaring June 29th as “Patrick Henry Day.”

The proclamation cited Henry’s rise to prominence through self study and oratory, his distinguished record as a lawyer and statesman, his participation in the Continental Congress, his immortal words of “Give me liberty or give me death,” his role in drafting Virginia’s first state constitution, and his service as Virginia’s first governor after independence. Continue reading

Disrespecting Stonewall Jackson Dishonors All Those Who Fought Under Him

Civil War reenactors as the Stonewall Brigade. Photo credit: Stonewallbrigade.net

by Donald Smith

When we think about wars, we often think of the great commanders who led the armies and navies that fought those wars. Mention World War II, and names like Eisenhower, Halsey, Rommel and Yamamoto come to mind. If you think of the American Revolution, quickly you’ll find yourself thinking of Washington, Cornwallis, Greene, etc… And, especially in Virginia, if you think about the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson will most likely cross your mind.

We remember generals for their leadership and decisions — but we also remember them for the armies they trained and led. It was the armies that won the great victories, not the generals. Patton didn’t rescue the 101st at Bastogne*; his Third Army did. Eisenhower didn’t take Omaha Beach; the survivors of the 29th Infantry Division (and many other troops) did. In that sense, the generals serve as symbols of the men who fought under them. The legacy of the general is intertwined with the legacies of the thousands of men and women he commanded.

One of the reasons that VMI’s handling of Stonewall Jackson’s legacy is so disappointing, is that it has impacts beyond Stonewall himself. Jackson has a personal legacy, as a person, a teacher and a battlefield titan. But he is also the most visible symbol of the army command he organized and led to victory after victory in the Civil War. A command which fought from First Manassas to Spotsylvania Court House, and is one of the most famous in American military history—the Stonewall Brigade. Continue reading