07 April 2010

Virginia for Lovers ?


"You must study to be frank with the world: 
frankness is the child of honesty and courage. 
Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, 
and take it for granted that you mean to do right."

Are Virginians celebrating Nat Turner's Rebellion this month in their great state? Nat Turner's Rebellion was a Slave Rebellion-August 1831 in Southampton County Virginia that left 60 white people dead; the rebellion lasted just a few days-the rebels were easily defeated.  Would it be appropriate to celebrate a rebellion that ended with 60 deaths? How many deaths does it take to make an official History month in Virginia 2010? Perhaps 6,947? This-the number of soldiers who Died in during the Civil War from battle wounds or disease from Virginia.*  Just Imagine the outrage if this month was Nat Turner's Rebellion History Month, Would there be outrage?  This month in Virginia is Confederate History Month (read this)The toll the Civil War took on the people of Virginia was great. The history of the state's role in the war is apparent to all Virginians. Why an official Confederate History Month?

"What a cruel thing is war: 
to separate and destroy families and friends, 
and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; 
to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, 
and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world."

The absence of acknowledging Slavery as a chief cause of the Civil War-still with out greatest casualties of war as a nation. The 2010 Virginia Proclamation made by Republican Governor Bobby McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."  To deny the obvious- to glorify the war in the way this governor has done-sets the great state back-about 50 years. This is the first time in about 10 years the state has marked the war in a way to promote tourism.the State's slogan was once VIRGINIA is for LOVERSMcDonnell issued an apology the next day here

"So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, 
I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. 
I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South.
So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained."

As a proud child of the South and the 60's, I find romanticizing the devastation of the Civil War to the South and its loss of life futile. Many of the generals on both sides had studied at West Point-Lee was offered the command of the union forces. His devotion to Virginia and his family outweighed acceptance and Lee returned to Virginia to his fate.
My ancestors in North Carolina fought in the Civil War- they were Southerners. My ancestors from Maryland-fought for the union -and brother fought against brother-where is the glory?

*In North Carolina over 20,000 casualties of war.
The Civil War here.
quotations are from Robert E Lee, Virginian, General of all the Confederate forces.

image is of a slave block (from wikipedia)


  1. I never tire of your blog and your voice. Great post.

  2. Just when I think I can stay on topic-I can not. As I say upfront it could be anything-and it usually is! I am a child of the South and love it-I would not change that-would that I could change this. No one hated the Civil War more than many of its Generals-on both sides.Virgina is getting a heavy dose of their moderate governor-one who proudly displays a Confederate flag during his campaign-http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/Flag%20Photo.jpg

  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/opinion/08collins.html
    read a confederacy of dunces

  4. I don't understand; what are you trying to say?

  5. Anon- sorry if my attempts at some irony missed the mark. If you are on the East Coast in the States-the story of Virginia and its celebration of Confederate History Month is in the news. That prompted this post-I have added some, I Hope, information to the story, plus the links help in understanding.
    If you are already familiar with the story and asking me- What I think about it. If it is not obvious- I think to continue to glorify a devastating war and an institution such as slavery serves no purpose- What Black Americans choose to celebrate it as their official marking of freedom of their ancestors from white tyranny- Would we accept that?
    Hope you read the story again-pgt

  6. As a Southerner, and the great grandchild of leaders of the Confederacy I want to say how nauseating I find the mythologizing of the Confederacy and flirting with the idea of secession and Southern nationalism is. The Civil War was fought to protect slavery. There is no question about it. Our side lost, thank God. Our economy was built on slavery and its abolition and reconstruction brought my family and our region to its knees.
    History gave the South a second chance and these ignorant yahoos want to blow it once again.
    I want to thank you for addressing this sensitive issue. No one but a Southerner knows how much courage it takes to oppose the radicals among us.

  7. I agree with Marion. In the Vietnam War era, the term "chicken hawks" was used to describe the pro-war won't go crowd (think Dick Cheney).

    Having elected our nation's first black president has set off deep fear and tremors in our country. I have been appalled at the eruption of anger, the foment of hate and the portent of violence. Slavery was an abomination that has scarred our country forever. And the Civil War was anything but.

  8. These days it would seem that everyone is entitled to celebrate their heritage. We have Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian / Pacific American Heritage Month, Older Americans Month, Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, Caribbean American Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month and National American Indian Heritage Month to name but a few. Yet apparently it is not acceptable for Virginians to celebrate their heritage as a historical member of the Confederacy. This furor is typical of the selective and revisionist mentality that exists in the US today. Whether we like it or not, the Confederate States of America is a fact. The men and women of the Confederacy were courageous enough to stand up and fight for what they believed in and their descendents have every right to be proud of this. And this heritage is not just the province of Caucasians. It is a fact that over 65,000 black men, both slave and free, fought alongside white soldiers for the Confederacy – although one would be hard pressed to find this in any of today’s history books. Likewise, in North Carolina numbers of Native American Indians fought alongside white soldiers. The US Civil War was precipitated by a vast number of issues and to say that it was fought solely to protect slavery is simply ignorant. It is more than apparent to anyone with eyes and ears that slavery played A PART, in the Civil War – it was one of MANY issues. The constant harping on slavery as the sole and single cause of Civil War is deliberately obtuse and to continue furthering this idea is to keep open a wound that has been festering in out national conscience for about 150 years now.

    Virginia is using one aspect of their history to increase tourism and revenues, just as they do with other areas of their history. I can’t see how anyone with any pretense to common sense can perceive this as glorification of war or slavery. I hardly think that promoting this aspect of Virginia history can be seen as a step backward for the state. In fact, it presents an opportunity for a great step forward – an open and honest discussion about the many and varied causes of the Civil War and the roles that ALL Virginians played in it.

  9. Guest, I appreciate your thought provoking comments-as a Southerner, I understand many of your thoughts. As mentioned both sides of the conflict were represented-stories abound, a soldier drinking from the hoof prints of the horses he followed behind. A slave owner in the North, a trunk with a letter from a soldier both travelled with him through the war, a woman travelling many miles to hope for food after her home was devastated- it all makes me a product of who I am. Many of your thoughts reflect a good friends-I think were the Va Gov. made his mistake was to disregard the aspect of Slavery as a large part of the history of Virginia's story. As a Southerner these stories really come right down to- the one on one relationships that were formed- a slave travelled with fought with the South-not to preserve slavery, but out of loyalty to a master (friend), A general decided to fight for Va. becaused he could not fight against his family or neighbors. I respect the history of the South-it was a blood letting, I could go on- It is very disturbing that the Confederate flag has been co opted by white supremacists, skin heads, many people who have No history of concept of the real losses that were sustained under that flag and the anguish many had while standing behind it. I have studied and reflected for years grappling with it all. The Va. Governor missed it-by a Dixie mile, though he lived in the Va-he was born in PA-from Irish descent,deep understanding of this period as a Southerner can come from the sweat of ones ancestors, slave or free.

  10. Awesome, to see this "percolating" to the front page on the same day as a diligent stab at listing our wars. I'm going to try to refrain from exploiting someone else's guest list, for remarks on this subject, but you, LA, I propose to exploit the hell out of, as we say in Mr Churchill's rhetoric class. "I have studied and reflected for years grappling with it all" - apart from being obvious - is the kind of statement every American parent would want his child, born today and a hundred years from today, to be able honestly to make, respecting this subject. One would see to it.



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