Portraits of Lee and Jackson taken down at college, high school renamed
Revision of history is always ongoing.
According to the Washington Times, the U.S. Army War College is discussing whether to remove portraits of Generals Lee and Jackson from its pantheon of inspiring leaders. Meanwhile, a school in Florida has approved a plan to change the school's name from Nathaniel B. Forrest High School. The discussions are part of a larger movement.
General Jackson was a brilliant general who wound up on the wrong side of revised, modern American history.
General Robert E. Lee may qualify as one of the most beloved generals in American history, despite the fact he served the Confederacy. General Jackson is less adored, but honored, particularly in military classrooms, for his hard-driving preference for the attack and his brilliant, bold maneuvers that made him one of the most feared generals in the South.
Meanwhile, General Nathaniel Bedford Forrest is remembered for his basic, but powerfully effective tactics which won victories early in the war and made the "Wizard of the Saddle" a fearsome opponent for Union troops.
It is a little less known however, that General Forrest led his men to massacre black troops who surrendered at Fort Pillow and that he founded the Klu Klux Klan after the Civil War.
Lee's sin was holding slaves and fighting for the Confederacy, although he technically freed his slaves in 1862. Lee's motivation for fighting was not slavery. Jackson was a lesser general, a corps commander under Lee, and he died in 1863. Jackson owned slaves.
These unpleasant realities no longer sit well with Americans who are now several generations removed from the men and the events they participated in. Although each commander made brilliant contributions to their cause, the cause itself, and the nature of some of their actions, is increasingly viewed as odious.
Therefore, the War College has discusses whether or not to keep its portraits of Jackson and Lee on public display. For now, the portraits have been moved to a third floor display as part of a larger reorganization of displays on the campus. Across the country, portraits and statues of the generals remain.
In Florida, a high school has ditched its name, Nathaniel B. Forrest High School, following a vote by the student body to do so.
These are normal developments, particularly as historical figures lose their nostalgic charm, the descendants lose all practical sense of connection to their ancestors, and politics and attitudes change. It works the other way too. People who were once ignored, or even villainized in history, may be lionized later as their story fits into the changing popular narrative.
All of these men made contributions, even if in the course of rebellion against the Union. They deserve some recognition for their efforts, and the context of those efforts should be understood. Portraits and textbooks probably. High schools, perhaps not for some. But whitewashing? No, that would be a bit much.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
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