Releasing Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee University|The Country

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Recumbent statue of Gen. Robert Edward Lee (1807– 1870), in the mausoleum at Lexington, Va. ( The Graphic/ Getty Images)

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signing up. For more from The Country, have a look at our most current issue. Travel With The Country Be the very first to find out about Nation Journeys locations, and check out the world with kindred spirits. Sign up for our Red wine Club today. The first time I walked inside Lee Chapel at Washington

and Lee University, I noticed an overpowering, musty odor before I identified the larger-than-life mass of marble in the sanctuary that illustrates a prone Confederate General Robert E. Lee in uniform, as if

asleep on the battleground. Ad Policy function load_article_ads ()

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leave a long-lasting stench. For over a century, the bones of the slave-owning Lee household have been kept in a crypt in the chapel’s cellar. Since of them and other antiques of the Confederacy housed there, the building reeks of the ruthlessness of slavery, of elitism and racism, and of the lies of the Lost Cause misconception that persists in honoring Lee, a guy who acted dishonorably throughout his life.

Lee’s image as a kind servant master, honorable but doomed warrior, and advocate of reconciliation between North and South after the Civil War is a prime example of the power of revisionist history– and an efficient PR machine.Perhaps as pernicious

is the other story of Lee, the fantastic teacher. It’s a misconception that has actually been perpetuated because 1870 by my company, Washington and Lee University, which bears duty for the miseducation of thousands of trainees through its deification of a man who betrayed his country and fought to keep millions of black people oppressed. Now, as people all over the world rise up to demonstration against

institutional bigotry, it is time for Washington and Lee University to begin to apologize for its function in pitching an incorrect narrative. It is time for the board of trustees to drop Lee from the university’s name. A little independent school in Lexington in southwestern Virginia, W&L claims

it can trace its roots to 1749 and credits its survival to George Washington’s timely donation in 1796 of shares of stock in the James River Canal Co. that would be worth millions today. To reveal their gratitude, trustees relabelled the school after Washington.It defies reasoning, 150 years after Lee’s death, for W&L to give him credit for making the university the first-rate liberal arts organization it is today. He doesn’t deserve it. The countless students, faculty, and personnel who came after him do. They consist of brave boys and ladies of color who typically found themselves alone, underestimated, and ridiculed as they sought their educations on an overwhelmingly white school. Current Issue< a href=" https://www.thenation.com/issue/june-29-july-6-2020-issue/" class= "no-target-blank" >< img src=" https://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/cover0629.jpg "alt=" "> View our existing problem< div class=" magazine_text" id=" magazine_text_354332" >< div class=" cta magazine_button" id=" magazine_button_354332" >
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" Lee's performance was a masterpiece of reticence," she composed. "in personal he penned political treatises that pulsate with regulated rage" as he went over with his buddies his resentment of the powers the nationwide government put in over Southern states.

The legislators likewise pushed Lee about whether he took an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy at the start of the war. "I do not recollect having done so; but it is possible that, when I was commissioned, I did," he affirmed. "I do not recollect whether it was required. If it was needed, I took it; or, if it had been needed, I would have taken it; however I do not recollect whether it was or not." Here was a man who hardly missed ending up initially in his class at the US Military College at West Point. His "I don't recall" defense rings as hollow then as it does today when major public figures utilize it to wiggle out of legal jams.

In the months after his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court Home on April 9, 1865, Lee did not understand whether he would be charged with treason. According to Pryor, Lee worried when a judge in Norfolk urged an indictment that June. Lee interested Grant, a fellow West Point graduate, to reiterate the terms of his surrender and the accompanying amnesty that spared his life. The military college's "long gray line" of graduates and cadets had shielded Lee from a shooting team in Appomattox-- and did so once again.

Lee got the job as president of Washington College after a trustee overheard one of the general's children complain at a celebration in Richmond that her father needed work. In September, Lee mounted his horse, Visitor, and headed to Lexington, where he found a college heavily in financial obligation and having a hard time. It is real that Lee oversaw repair work, raised cash, hired trainees and injected the college with a practical streak of education by highlighting chemistry, engineering and mining. He even is credited with spearheading an effort to educate printers to progress reporters.

Pryor's extensive research study of letters composed by Lee and others exposed that much of the college's students were Confederate veterans who revered the basic. She also found that Lee had a "intense and violent temper, prone to severe expression." He was hard to please. He never said sorry when incorrect. One trainee remembered hiding behind a structure's column when he saw Lee pass, according to Pryor's book. Lee even beat up his old horse in a fit of rage, Pryor wrote.

But the most damning account of Lee the college president i s John M. McClure's essay, "The Freedmen's Bureau School of Lexington versus 'General Lee's Boys.'" In 1865, members of the town's black neighborhood had pooled their money to lease space for usage as a school. "Within a week of the school's opening, more than 3 hundred trainees-- ranging in age from very kids to grandparents in their sixties-- almost overwhelmed" the school's instructors with their enthusiasm for education, wrote McClure, who is presently director of research and publications at the Virginia Historic Society.

The white townspeople reacted by taunting black children as they strolled to school, threatening black workers for seeking education, and charging black clients higher costs in local shops.

Washington College trainees signed up with forces with cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Institute to bother the black trainees and their teachers. "The university student often threw stones at the school's windows and loudly sang 'rebel songs' during impromptu night 'parades,'" according to McClure's essay.

" Educators were called 'Yankee bitches' so frequently that the insult 'hardly impress [ed] them after the very first few months," McClure wrote. "Male frequently stood in the ladies's course as they strolled house from school in the night, forcing the instructors to push past them. On several events the trainees scrambled the women and made 'repulsive ideas.'".

The white university student and cadets likewise sexually mistreated young black women and students at the school, McClure wrote. A few of the guys were "sexual predators," who tried to kidnap and rape young black women. Others pressed young black ladies into sexual relationships. "The danger of violence was universal in such encounters: black women and ladies unquestionably knew they ran the risk of being attacked if they denied their assailants' needs," according to McClure's essay.

Lee learnt about his trainees' harassment of the black school's students and instructors. He likewise understood about two violent confrontations between his trainees and teachers and freedmen. "Lee had sent advisories prohibiting his students to take part in these activities," Pryor wrote. But as one trainee informed his moms and dads, "It was reported that the Gen. had dismissed a few of the kids, however I have actually not known of any leaving." Pryor reached the only possible conclusion: "The variety of allegations versus Washington College boys indicates that he either punished the racial harassment more laxly than other misdemeanors or disregarded to it.".

W&L has actually done little in the previous twenty years to resolve the misconception of Lee, the educator, besides eliminate a couple of fight flags from the chapel. Rather, it has actually overlooked the facts. It's difficult to think the university didn't learn about McClure's research or Pryor's work. McClure's findings were exposed at a big event of Civil War scholars at the University of Richmond in 2002 and consisted of in a compilation of the conference's documents in a book, Virginia's Civil War, released in 2005. Pryor's book was released two years later on to vital honor and won a number of awards, including the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize developed to honor "the finest scholarly work" on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War age.

The university's credibility remains in hazard if it continues to pretend that Lee was more than he was. Its enrollment model is not sustainable-- and it's embarrassing for a school of its quality in the 21st century. In 2019, 79 percent of W&L's 1,860 undergrads were white, and just 3.3 percent were African American. It is going to get progressively tough to convince a generation of high school trainees who care about diversity to attend a university called after a Confederate general.

" Time overtakes kingdoms and squashes them, gets its teeth into teachings and rends them," as author James Baldwin composed in The Fire Next Time. "Time reveals the foundations on which any kingdom rests, and consumes at those foundations, and it damages teachings by proving them to be false.".

It may be difficult for individuals who admire Lee to believe, but he did not like being president of Washington College. "The work of the college annoyed him at best," Pryor composed, and he informed his child that he desired to leave.

It's time to let him go.