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Letter – Relics of the Lost Cause should be removed

To The Editor:

On August 28, The Farmville Herald featured an article about Confederate general James Early. A young man who stated he was a descendent of Early expressed his views on the removed Confederate statue located on High Street.

I especially recalled one point on the general. He was a former resident of Franklin County. My great-great grandparents, Eliza and Caleb Cunningham, were slaves in that county. During my youth I often heard that slavery was an enjoyable time with loving relationships existing between master and slave. I often hearken back to a particular statement I heard from a prominent citizen in Buckingham during my early years as a teacher in the county. This man stated, “Slaves fought each other to secure a seat on a slave ship.” This has to go down as one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard.

There are very few people alive today who got their first knowledge of slavery from people who were former slaves. I am such a person. My great grandmother, Alice Cunningham Toms, was my babysitter. She died in 1943 and believed that she was born in early 1851. Other former slaves living in my neighborhood included Lucy Madison, Ed Washington, Miss Hanna Trice, Joe Crawford, and Mrs. Pagent. I never heard or witnessed any of these folks ever speaking lovingly of their enslavement. They spoke of brutal masters and conditions and how their families were separated after being sold to new owners. My great-great uncle (Alice’s brother) was known to have accompanied his master to take part in the Civil War but neither returned after the fighting was over.

Thus, whenever I pass a Confederate statue or see the “Stars and Bars,” I can’t help thinking about my first history teachers, my family and neighbors, who were very knowledgeable on the subjects of slavery and the Civil War. Their first-hand knowledge was a blessing I didn’t realize until I began encountering the lies and falsehoods featured prominently in the books used in my early education. Some of these texts I still have and they provide me with both amusement and amazement. Some of the distorted facts are very humorous and I am left with a sense of bewilderment on others — this is some of the nonsense that I was taught as a child. But as I grew older, attended college where I graduated with honors, and began a long career as an educator, facts became my driving force.

As the patriarch of a very large family I am in total agreement of family legacy. I have always instilled in my family that there are many great accomplishments and acts that our family has to be proud of, but as true with all things, there are some things that we are not proud of.

The public reverence of Confederate icons is outdated and the relics of the Lost Cause should be removed. The forced hero worship that the majority of the public is subjected to has become intolerable. To revere and view as heroes the huge statues of men who made a decision to join in rebellion against the United States and were ultimately defeated is wrong.

Charles White Sr.

Buckingham