Emancipation Day Parade, April 1905, Richmond

by Phil Leigh

(March 25, 2022) In this morning’s Richmond Times podcast, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Michael Paul Williams asserts that the reason there were no Confederate monuments in the city until the 1890s and afterward was because whites wanted them to symbolize the return of white supremacy after the end of Reconstruction. He implies that if the statues were intended to honor the fallen soldiers they would have been erected when the war ended in 1865. He further opines that the statues erected as late as the mid-1920s were chiefly intended to reinforce the symbolism of white supremacy while black voices were progressively silenced. He is wrong for two reasons.

First, penniless Southerners were unable to pay for monuments for many years after the war ended. They instead had to content themselves with laying flowers of the graves of the fallen, which sometimes also included Northern soldiers who died while in the South. According to professors William Cooper and Thomas Terrill in their textbook, The American South, as late as 1900 the per capita income percentile ranking in the South was half that of the national average. Even in 1930 it was only 55% of the national average.

Moreover, unlike the anti-Confederate statues going up in the South now such as Richmond’s Rumors of War, there were few wealthy foundations willing to make donations for nineteenth and early twentieth century Confederate statues. They were typically paid for by donations from thousands-upon-thousands of ordinary citizens, including some blacks.

Second, few people today recognize the magnitude of the losses suffered by white Southern families during the war. At least five percent of the white population, from which the Confederacy drew her soldiers, were killed. If America were to fight a war today and suffer proportional losses our dead would total 17 million. That’s nearly three times the number of Jews killed during the Nazi Holocaust and forty times the number American soldiers killed in World War II. Given such an oblation, only a cynic could conclude that the surviving Southern family members were not chiefly motivated to build statues out of a desire to memorialize the loved and lost, particularly considering that many never returned from far away battlefields.

In point of fact, there’s good reason to believe that Michael Paul Williams is just such a cynic. The photo above is of Richmond’s fortieth annual Emancipation Day Parade in April 1905. As you can see, blacks were free to march joyfully through the city at least fifteen years after the Robert E. Lee monument was erected on Monument Avenue. If the statues were intended to intimidate blacks and remind them that they were under the thumb of white supremacy, the parade would not have been allowed.

Now consider the situation if the Sons of Confederate Veterans were to march in Richmond today to honor their ancestors. Nobody can doubt that they would never get a permit and that the regime media would attack them viciously for even trying. If they were somehow to march, no doubt they would get protested and perhaps even assaulted as a consequence of the hatred stirred up by the regime media.

Mr. Williams provides other observations suggesting that he is an entitled race hustler.

First, he argues that America is currently experiencing an unjustified backlash to the statue removals. To paraphrase, he says, After Reconstruction came the backlash of the 1890s. Now, after Obama’s presidency comes another backlash. Such a remark ignores the fact that Obama could not have been elected and re-elected President without white votes. Blacks represent only 13% of America’s population. If, however, there is a backlash it is because of the intolerance of power elites like Michael Paul Williams.

Second, when Williams started working for the Richmond-Times forty years ago he was hired by whites. Ten years later his white bosses gave him the opportunity to become a columnist because he argued that blacks were not sufficiently represented in the newspaper. Even though he boasts that some of his anti-tradition views triggered controversy in the community, his white employers apparently backed him, because he was never fired.

Now that he is no longer “speaking truth to power”—because he is a part of the present power elite—he wants to censor views contrary to his. He doesn’t want Confederate statues anywhere in the country, except possibly in museums where they can be ridiculed with so-called textualization plaques. He visualizes Richmond as the center of a movement to have the statues razed everywhere.

The Richmond-Times and Michael Paul Williams are two good reasons to tell your representatives in Washington to vote against the federal subsidies that the Biden Administration is trying to give to newspapers. Tell them to kill the “Save Local News Act.” It gives your federal tax dollars to legacy newspapers and gives them certain antitrust exemptions to make Big Tech promote their views instead of yours.

The book below will help you understand the racial delusions of people like Williams and how to debunk them.

Phil Leigh publishes the Civil War Chat blog. His most recent book is, “The Dreadful Frauds: Critical Race Theory and Identity Politics.”


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Comments

22 responses to “Monumental Lies”

  1. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Ah, yes!! Blacks “marching joyfully” in 1905 in Richmond. Not likely they were celebrating the 1901 VA Constitution that was crafted to insure they could not vote. Indeed, all must have empathy for the penniless southerners who could not afford to pay for Confederate monuments. This twaddle is a good reason to support preserving local newspapers. Let this author publish in them.

  2. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Ah, yes!! Blacks “marching joyfully” in 1905 in Richmond. Not likely they were celebrating the 1901 VA Constitution that was crafted to insure they could not vote. Indeed, all must have empathy for the penniless southerners who could not afford to pay for Confederate monuments. This twaddle is a good reason to support preserving local newspapers. Let this author publish in them.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Are local papers a step up from BR? Or down? Perhaps mentioning UVa might help?

    2. VaNavVet Avatar

      Twaddle at the least or something more dark.

  3. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Nothing you say means anything to the race hustlers. Black on black murders are accelerating as the grievance media constantly runs it mouth about how unfair everything is. Eventually there will be a backlash and it won’t be pretty. Every southern family was affected by the War something the families in the north did not experience.

  4. DJRippert Avatar
    DJRippert

    This doesn’t really make sense. You write, “According to professors William Cooper and Thomas Terrill in their textbook, The American South, as late as 1900 the per capita income percentile ranking in the South was half that of the national average. Even in 1930 it was only 55% of the national average.”

    So, in the 30 years from 1900 to 1930 he income of Southerners only gained 5% on the national average. Wasn’t that when most of the statues were erected?

    Meanwhile, the Virginia constitution written by “carpetbaggers” in 1870 was remarkably fair to Black Virginians. Unfortunately, the so-called carpetbaggers left and Virginia’s “plantation elite” re-assumed control. They rewrote the state constitution in 1901. The new constitution was clearly a Jim Crow document reversing the positives from the 1870 constitution. The 1901 constitution wasn’t even ratified by the people of Virginia since Blacks would have voted it down based on the eligibility rules from the 1870 constitution. Poll taxes, literacy tests, segregation, etc were all part of the 1901 state constitution.

    It seems to me that the Confederate statues, along with the 1901 constitution were both examples of of white supremacy in Virginia.

    1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      Nice. I appreciate someone with reading comprehension and logic skills.

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    The author clearly supports the preservation of fascist monuments that remain in Italy to this day. There were some very fine people on both sides of WWII after all…

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Well, it has come to this for BR.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    This really does exemplify how some folks can and do live in complete denial of history and reality and WHY we cannot seem to get past white supremacy with whites continuing to blame blacks for their inability to forget their enslavement, Jim Crow and continuing modern-day veiled but overt white supremacy.

    I’m glad that JAB allows the post. It very much illustrates the thinking that is still prevalent in our society.

  7. Scott McPhail Avatar
    Scott McPhail

    What is fascinating about this whole argument is that people fail to look at the most logical reason for any delay in the monuments is that monuments MEMORALIZE. They are often erected long after events when those events hit certain chronological milestones and also when the participants in those events start to grow old and pass away. To press the point point about delay and time gaps requires the ignoring completely the history of memorial statuary in the United States.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I continue to just laugh….okay, yes, the original statues were up to provide political intimidation. But not just racial, political. Black Virginians were mainly voting Republican, into the 1920s. Keeping them from the polls was about maintaining the Democratic Solid South. Long story short, the more racist wing of the old Democratic party fled to the Republicans who welcomed them, and now the Republicans are fighting for the stupid statues and once again losing elections over it. Democrats who stood by the Solid South and Lost Cause up to the late 1960s can now pose as if their hands are clean.

      Waiting for the Lincoln Day Dinner in Virginia. Waiting. Did you see Youngkin make this an issue? These fools were prodding and begging but he avoided the trap. They’ll keep prodding and begging and Bacon gives them a constant forum.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        re: ” Long story short, the more racist wing of the old Democratic party fled to the Republicans who welcomed them, and now the Republicans are fighting for the stupid statues and once again losing elections over it.”

        you said a mouthful!

  8. Leigh is addressing a subsidiary point in the statue debate. He’s focusing on just one of the arguments that arise — why the statues were erected. Williams (according to Leigh) contends the statues were an assertion of white supremacy. As evidence, he posits that if they had been raised to memorialize the South’s heroes, they would have been erected in 1865 or shortly thereafter.

    Leigh exposes the absurdity of this particular argument. Virginians had no means to commission bronze statues and granite plinths in the immediate aftermath of the war.

    I think he leaves out his strongest argument — that Southerners began erecting statues to their Civil War heroes around the same time that Northerners were commissioning statues for their Civil War heroes. The common denominator — the Civil War generation was aging and dying off, and grateful communities around the country, not just the South, wanted to acknowledge the sacrifices their elders had made.

    There are legitimate reasons for wanting to remove the Civil War statues. The argument posited by Williams is not one of them.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Since I never read Williams, I feel no urge to reply to him. If your goal is clicks, posts like this deliver. If your goal is the promote the conservative approach on issues that actually matter, posts like this drive off the middle of the road readers you need. When you force me to agree with Larry, or vice versa, that’s a sign.

  9. Connie Chastain Avatar
    Connie Chastain

    Quote: “He (Michael Paul Williams) implies that if the statues were intended to honor the fallen soldiers they would have been erected when the war ended in 1865.”

    This is not true. Aside from the fact that funds were not available in the impoverished South at that time, as Mr. Leigh notes, soldiers’ and war memorials are almost never erected right after a war ends, even if funds are available to raise them.

    In the USA, most memorials to soldiers, whatever war they fought, are raised years and sometimes decades after the war. Here are some examples:

    The Vietnam Memorial was dedicated in November of 1982, seven years after the war ended in April 1975.

    The Arizona Memorial in Honolulu was erected May 30, 1962, a little less than TWO DECADES after World War II ended.

    The Korean War memorial in D.C. was dedicated in 1995 — over FOUR DECADES after U.S. involvement in Korea.

    Claiming that the timing of Confederate monument raising indicates that the memorials weren’t erected to honor fallen soldiers is indeed a lie, Just one of many from the Victor Fables still being foisted off on the country.

  10. 1866 to 1880

  11. 1866 to about 1885 was spent returning or marking confederate war dead. Go to Hollywood and you will see for yourself.

  12. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Jim Bacon, Why do you post racist crap like this? What’s
    with the constant denigration of decent
    newspaper columnists like Michael Paul Williams? Do you really believe that Black Virginians
    supported the erection of Confederate monuments? What planet are you from?

    Philip Leigh is clearly a hack writer. He
    says he’s a historian, but he’s actually and engineer with and MBA. His
    publisher is Shotwell Publishing in Columbia S.C. which is know for pushing
    revisionist tracts on the “South.” Titles include “Lincoln Owned Slaves,” “The
    South Was Right,” “Happy Birthday Robert E. Lee,” plus, a meme showing a chubby
    baby greedily eating and making a mess. The title? “Bring Me Another Yankee.”

  13. Wasn’t the purpose of the 1901-02 convention for the democrats to find a way to keep the blacks from voting so they could stay in power? 36% of the Virginia population was black. Most were inclined to vote republican.

    Shouldn’t we focus our frustration on the ones in power? Is it not the politicians and the elite who are the ones that cause all the ruckus? They are the ones that decide to take monuments down or put them up to ensure they get the votes to stay in power.

  14. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    Everyone who’s proud of their Southern and Confederate heritage, repeat after me: “Bite me.”

    If someone starts to lecture and hector* you about your support of Confederate heritage, respond by saying “Bite me.” Or, if you want to be polite, “bless your heart.” Be nice but firm. If someone is unhappy that you respect your Confederate ancestors, let them sod off.

    If Richmond wants to be a mecca for putzes and victims, and a place where shallow and emotional thinking rules, let it. There’s plenty of other, much nicer places to spend your time and money.

    If I want to go to places where the legacies of Confederate generals, soldiers and citizens are treated with respect, I only have to drive an hour or so outside of Richmond to find them. And they’re safer places, too.

    Sometime in the future, journalists and historians will ask why today’s media class responded to what they saw as bias in the coverage of Southern history (the “Lost Cause” mentality) with their own bias against anything Confederate.

    *If someone wants to have a respectful discussion with you about the issue, engage if you can. We’ll all be the better for it.

    1. dsmithuva75 Avatar
      dsmithuva75

      “Bite me!” — The Other Don Smith

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