confederate controversy
July 7, 2020

The faculty of Washington and Lee University voted overwhelmingly Monday to remove Robert E. Lee's name from the Virginia university. The faculty of then-Washington College voted to add Lee's name in 1870, right after the former Confederate general died. The resolution to remove Lee's name passed 188-51, while a proposed motion to remove George Washington's name failed.

Lee, who had served as the college's president after the Civil War, "was a symbol of who that faculty wanted to be, and who they were," said Alison Bell, head of the Faculty Affairs Committee. "The faculty is back 150 years later, asking the university for a name change because Lee does not represent who we are and who we want to be." Washington and Lee's student government formally asked for Lee's name to be scrapped last week, and more than 200 faculty members had signed a petition with the same goal.

The board of trustees, which would have to approve the name change, is "carefully monitoring developments regarding issues of race, monuments, and symbols of the Confederacy and their implications" for Washington and Lee, a spokeswoman said last week.

Elsewhere in Virginia, Confederate names are being stripped from public K-12 schools at a rapid clip, The Washington Post reports. Stonewall Middle School in Prince William County is getting a new name, as is Robert E. Lee High School, one of the most diverse schools in Fairfax County. Loudon County High School is getting a new mascot after the school board voted unanimously to drop the Raiders, a reference to Confederate Col. John S. Mosby's guerrilla troops.

"Historians said the wholesale rejection of Confederate iconography by Virginia schools is unprecedented," the Post reports, though James Grossman at the American Historical Association noted Black students, parents, and communities have objected since the schools were named in the 1950s and '60s, in an angry backlash to the Supreme Court's seminal ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

"It was trying to make Black students feel unwelcome, while white students and white communities were emboldened to resist desegregation," said historian Adam Domby. Peter Weber

August 30, 2017

Georgia State Rep. Jason Spencer (R) either warned or threatened a former colleague, LaDawn Jones (D), that she faced grave harm if she traveled to south Georgia and called for the removal of Confederate monuments. Jones, who is black and represented an Atlanta district from 2012 to 2016, responded to a Facebook post Spencer had written Monday about visiting a monument to Jefferson Davis, saying she hoped tax dollars weren't going toward memorializing the president of the Confederacy.

Things went downhill from there, with Spencer warning Jones that if she visited his part of Georgia, she "won't be met with torches but something a lot more definitive," adding that "people in south Georgia are people of action, not drama," and troublemakers from Atlanta "will go missing in the Okefenokee," a swamp. Spencer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wasn't threatening Jones, just offering a "warning to her of how people can behave about this issue." He also insisted the newspaper run a photo he sent of himself standing next to a new statue of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jones told the Journal-Constitution that she sat next to Spencer in the Georgia House for four years, and they developed a "unique relationship," but not an unfriendly one. "If it were anybody other than Jason Spencer, then I would be alarmed" and "take it as a serious threat," she said. But she was still a little "concerned," Jones added. "Because if that's representative of what people in south Georgia think, then yikes." You can read their whole exchange at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Peter Weber

August 16, 2017

Confederate statues aren't just in the South, and a monument to Confederate veterans in the heart of Hollywood was quietly removed Wednesday morning.

At 3 a.m., workers at Hollywood Forever cemetery took out a 6-foot granite memorial, erected more than 90 years ago, which stood near about 30 graves of Confederate veterans and their families. Following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the cemetery received hundreds of calls and letters from activists calling for the monument's removal, as well as threats from others who said they would vandalize it, the cemetery's chief financial officer told the Los Angeles Times. "We felt we could no longer keep it safe here," Yogu Kanthiah said.

The monument is owned by the Long Beach chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which decided to take it down after being contacted by Hollywood Forever, and the memorial will sit in storage for now. Most people didn't know about the Confederate section of the cemetery before the Times published an op-ed by history professor Kevin Waite on Aug. 4, which went into detail about the history of Confederate sympathizers and veterans that lived in California; they felt so comfortable in the state that the only Confederate veterans rest home outside of the South was in San Gabriel, and when the residents died, they were buried at Hollywood Forever. Catherine Garcia

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