Washington and Lee

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing. The board also ordered the doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel to be closed during university events.

These changes are not particularly radical, although I would be keen to know exactly how many “students and faculty” we are actually talking about here (university administrators love to sniff out mandates to do things they want to do anyway). Dropping the “Lee” from the university’s name, so that it reverts to “Washington University,” or changing the name entirely (cf. “Arcadia University“), would be very radical indeed. (Robert E. Lee was president of Washington College after the Civil War and promoted some innovative changes; the trustees appended his name to the place immediately upon his death in 1870.)

Here are some photos from the last time we were in Lexington, Virginia (2006). It is really quite a pretty town – featuring not just Washington and Lee, but also the Virginia Military Institute, the alpha chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., and the grave of Stonewall Jackson.

Payne, Washington, and Chavis (formerly Robinson) Halls.

The Lee Memorial Chapel.

Outside Lee Chapel: Traveller’s grave.

And heraldry! This is the Washington and Lee coat of arms on Lettie Pate Evans Hall.

Dare Stones

I have just discovered the existence of South’s version of the Kensington Runestone. From the Brenau Window:

In November 1937 as America clawed its way out of The Great Depression, a Californian man showed up at the history department of Emory University in Atlanta with a most peculiar object – a 21-pound chunk of rough veined quartz with some foreign looking words chiseled into its surface. The man said he found the rock in a North Carolina swamp, about 80 miles from Roanoke Island, while he was driving through on vacation. The strange stone caught the attention of one of the professors, Dr. Haywood Pearce Jr., who also served as vice president of Brenau, where his father was president. The inscription on the stone read “Ananias Dare & Virginia went hence unto heaven 1591,” and a message to notify John White of that news bore the initials of the author of the carved writing, EWD, presumably those of Eleanor Dare.

Although Emory’s historians weren’t interested, Pearce and his father certainly were. Perhaps they concluded that, if this chuck of rock indeed marked the graves of America’s “first white child” and her father, it might well be the thing to put their college on the map. They wound up paying the California man $1,000 for the treasure.

Anyone who has used tiller, plow or trowel in Appalachian dirt will swear the region grows rocks. But nothing plows better than cold cash. To make a long story short, over the next four years, similar rocks popped up all over the place, mostly found by four people. Pearce and his father over the years acquired close to 50 of the huge stones, all with similar inscriptions unearthed as far south as the banks of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. Although the Pearces’ fervent explorations and money never turned up graves or any other evidence to authenticate the stones, a team of Smithsonian Institution-commissioned historians – headed by the venerable Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard – traveled to Gainesville and, in a preliminary report, assigned some validity to what had then come to be known as “The Dare Stones.”

David Morrison’s article notes that the Saturday Evening Post, in 1941, conclusively proved that most of these stones were forgeries, but what about the original one? From the Washington Post on July 5 (hat tip: Ron Good):

In the past few years, researchers have been taking another look. For one, the letters etched on the first stone look very different from the others. It doesn’t contain any suspiciously modern words as the others do. Plus, Dare was “moderately educated,” Schrader says, and her husband was a stonemason. It’s reasonable to think she may have learned the skill from him.

In 2016, Schrader had a sample of the stone analyzed by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, exposing the quartz’s bright white interior.

“The original inscription would have been a stark contrast to the weathered exterior,” science writer Andrew Lawler wrote for National Geographic. “A good choice for a Roanoke colonist but a poor one for a modern forger.”

Schrader said he would like to marshal the funds for an “exhaustive, geochemical investigation,” but first, this fall, a Brenau professor will assemble a team of outside experts to analyze the language more thoroughly.

“The type of English that’s on the stone was really only used for about a hundred years, so it’s a nice time marker to be able to study,” Schrader said.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. (I make no comment on the use of “Virginia Dare” by white nationalists – if the rock is authentic, then it’s authentic, and if it’s fake, then it’s fake. What “uses” it is put to are beyond the investigator’s concern.)

Happy Independence Day

From the Atlantic, via Dartblog:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Famed black abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass posed this question before a large, mostly white crowd in Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852. It is “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim,” Douglass explained, adding that he felt much the same: “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! … This Fourth [of] July is yours not mine.”

A little over a decade later, however, African Americans like Douglass began making the glorious anniversary their own. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, the nation’s four million newly emancipated citizens transformed Independence Day into a celebration of black freedom. The Fourth became an almost exclusively African American holiday in the states of the former Confederacy—until white Southerners, after violently reasserting their dominance of the region, snuffed these black commemorations out.

Before the Civil War, white Americans from every corner of the country had annually marked the Fourth with feasts, parades, and copious quantities of alcohol. A European visitor observed that it was “almost the only holy-day kept in America.” Black Americans demonstrated considerably less enthusiasm. And those who did observe the holiday preferred—like Douglass—to do so on July 5 to better accentuate the difference between the high promises of the Fourth and the low realities of life for African Americans, while also avoiding confrontations with drunken white revelers.

Yet the tables had turned by July 4, 1865, at least in the South. Having lost a bloody four-year war to break free from the United States and defend the institution of slavery, Confederate sympathizers had little desire to celebrate the Fourth now that they were back in the Union and slavery was no more. “The white people,” wrote a young woman in Columbia, South Carolina, “shut themselves within doors.”

African Americans, meanwhile, embraced the Fourth like never before. From Washington, D.C., to Mobile, Alabama, they gathered together to watch fireworks and listen to orators recite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in late 1865.

Read the whole thing.

Mississippi

Pleased to note that the state of Mississippi might be on the verge of reviving the Magnolia flag (scroll down to 4), its flag during the Civil War and unofficial flag until 1894.

Wikipedia.

From Business Insider:

Mississippi could become the first US state to have 2 official flags because of a dispute over the Confederacy

Brennan Weiss, Jan. 13, 2018

A Mississippi lawmaker is proposing a solution that he hopes will finally bring an end to one of the state’s most divisive issues, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Greg Snowden filed a bill that would allow two flag designs to officially represent the state. If the measure passes, Mississippi would be the only US state with two flags.

Mississippi’s current flag, which features the symbol for the Confederacy, would be left untouched. A proposed second flag would bring back an old design used on the state’s official flag from 1861 until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

That design features a magnolia tree in the center of the flag and a white star against a blue background in the top-left corner, replacing the controversial Confederate emblem currently in its place.

“We feel that it is most appropriate to adopt the historical Magnolia Flag as an additional design of the official state flag that may be flown with equal status and dignity to represent our state as we are beginning our third century as a member of the United States,” the bill says.

Snowden argued that his solution will appease both sides of the flag debate. While some Mississippians consider the current flag to be a historical tribute to their ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War, others believe it glorifies slavery and the systematic oppression of black people.

The two-flag proposal would allow people to choose which flag they want to represent them. Snowden’s bill says that both flags could be flown together or individually.

I think this is great. The Confederacy is indeed a part of “our heritage,” but it does not deserve to be memorialized so prominently, and at the expense of everything else that’s also part of our heritage. The Magnolia flag is historic, and a nice design, and as I said before, is even more appropriate to Mississippi than the current flag: eleven states were in the Confederacy, but there’s only one Magnolia State. But that Rep. Snowden’s proposal does not seek to completely displace the current flag is a nice compromise.

(As noted before on First Floor Tarpley, the country of Bolivia also recognizes two official flags: a traditional European-derived horizontal tricolor, and a square, checkered flag called the Wiphala, in honor of Bolivia’s native Andeans.)

Clay Moss provides a more detailed history of the Magnolia flag.

“Confederate History and Heritage Month”

A great article from David Parker on Like the Dew: A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics:

Governor Phil Bryant caused something of a stir in February when he signed a proclamation declaring April to be “Confederate Heritage Month” in Mississippi.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal made no such proclamation, but he didn’t need to. The Georgia General Assembly already took care of this back in 2009, when it legislated that “the month of April of each year is hereby designated as Confederate History and Heritage Month and shall be set aside to honor, observe, and celebrate the Confederate States of America, its history, those who served in its armed forces and government, and all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear.”

“The cause which they held so dear” had as its cornerstone the institution of slavery. This is according to Alexander Stephens, a Georgian and vice-president of the Confederate States of America, who said exactly that in a speech in Savannah in March 1861.

But forget for a while that the resolution calls on Georgians to honor and celebrate a nation built on slavery. As a historian, I have another problem with it: “All those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear.”

Georgia’s resolution assumes a unity of support for the Confederacy and the war effort that simply did not exist. African slaves had little enthusiasm for the Confederate cause, of course, but here’s something we seem to have forgotten, or perhaps never knew: A lot of white Georgians did not support the war.

On January 2, 1860, when Georgia’s (white male) voters went to the polls to elect delegates for a statewide convention to decide on the secession question, the secessionists won—by a vote of 42,744 to 41,717. Hardly overwhelming support! Once the convention voted for secession, and especially after the shooting started, white support shifted a bit, but there was always a tremendous amount of white disaffection.

We have forgotten that a lot of white folks thought of the war as “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” White disaffection was not confined to the lower class, but it was strong there.

There’s more at the link. White opposition to the Confederacy deserves to be remembered. The same impulse that created West Virginia was found in pockets throughout Appalachia, and beyond.

 

Dorothy Rogers Tilly

A preview for readers of First Floor Tarpley: a short but significant article by Reinhardt history professor Ken Wheeler from the Fall, 2015 edition of Reinhardt Magazine, about Reinhardt alumna Dorothy Rogers Tilly. 

One joy of historical research is encountering the fascinating lives of people in other times. While researching a different topic, I serendipitously discovered Dorothy Rogers Tilly, a Reinhardt graduate who became Georgia’s most notable white woman working for racial equality during the 20th century.

Decades before the modern civil rights movement, Dorothy Rogers Tilly, class of 1899, was an anti-lynching activist, leading boycotts and mobilizing churchwomen in campaigns for racial equality and social reform. As a member of President Harry Truman’s civil rights commission, she did important work.

Tilly was one of several Rogers family members at Reinhardt. Her father, Richard, led Reinhardt as president from 1896 to 1901. A Methodist minister, he and his wife, Fannie, moved to Waleska with their many children in tow. One elder daughter, Lois, joined the faculty to teach English language, literature and history. Other Rogers children enrolled as students.

President Rogers also pastored the local Methodist church. In the 1900 census, he indicated his occupation as “preacher.” It tells us something about him that being a college president was subsumed under his ministerial calling.

The Rogers family certainly brought a pastoral outlook with them. Tilly remembered that while growing up, “I saw and heard the troubles of the community, both Negro and white, pour over the doorstep of the parsonage.”

In 1899, Dorothy graduated from Reinhardt with honors at age 16 and went to Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Ga., to complete her baccalaureate degree. Soon she married Milton Tilly, and a year later they had a son, Eben. A difficult pregnancy led doctors to recommend that she bear no more children. As a result, once Eben was beyond his early years, she was a well-educated woman with energy and time on her hands.

She worked for the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church and in 1918 began running its Children’s Work for North Georgia program. This position carried her into contact with the poor, both black and white, and during the 1930s she expanded her engagement with social causes, joining first the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and later the Association of Souther Women for the Prevention of Lynching – she served as secretary, field reporter, and representative. Still, highly involved with Methodism, Tilly had also moved into civil rights. In the 1940s, she organized Georgia churchwomen in boycotts of businesses owned by Ku Klux Klan members and fought against poll taxes across the South.

Because of work Tilly did in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s, she became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt wrote in her memoirs that she admired Tilly’s courage because “I was told that whenever a lynching occurred, she went alone or with a friend, as soon as she heard of it, to investigate the circumstances.” Perhaps a recommendation from Mrs. Roosevelt led to the invitation in 1946 for Tilly to join President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. The committee produced a famous and influential report, “To Secure These Rights,” which called for an immediate end to segregation.

Tilly and her work aroused opposition. The Klan threatened to bomb her home, and she received many harassing calls. Undaunted, she talked back to her callers, repeatedly asking them to identify themselves, but eventually she placed a record player by her telephone stand. When a caller coul dnot be engaged in reasonable conversation she dropped the  needle on a recording of the Lord’s Prayer, which played into the phone’s mouthpiece as she walked away.

In 1949, Tilly founded a new organization in Georgia, one she ran almost single-handedly, called the Fellowship of the Concerned, FOC. The FOC, with thousands of members, launched various initiatives and hosted interracial conferences, foreseeing a future that many people could still scarcely imagine. Anticipating, and then reacting to, the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional, the FOC trained women in how to make their white communities ready for integrated schools.

The late 1950s and 1960s brought mass-action protest of a different sort to the fore in the search for racial equality and the civil rights; young activists often had little use for what seemed an older generation’s maternalism. Yet in 1963, the year Tilly turned 80, President John F. Kennedy appointed her to the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights, and Tilly, ever vigorous, carried on with the FOC almost until her death in 1970.

Overall, the life of Dorothy Rogers Tilly shows how she fused her family background, education and church involvement into a persistent commitment to tackle a massive social problem. Tilly connected Christian social work and social reform of the early twentieth century to the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement. She is a powerful example of the importance of women’s roles in changing social views, and her involvement in Methodist women’s groups was central to her ideas about how to bring dignity to and improve people’s lives. Reinhardt, led by Tilly’s father, clearly had an ethos supportive of that work of Christian uplift; while Tilly was an exceptional person, her life gives us clues about he kind of training and mentality that some Reinhardt graduates of that time carried with them as they left Waleska for the wider world.

For more on Tilly, see chapters on her life in From the Old South to the New (1981), Throwing Off the Cloak of Privilege (2004), and Before Brown (2004), which is reprinted in Politics and Religion in the White South (2005). 

Travels

Photos of things historical, from a short jaunt to St. Augustine, Florida:

1. On the way down, we stopped at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia. This is run by the National Parks Service and features a WPA-built visitor center.

The site itself is quite large and boasts “17000 years of continuous settlement” in successive waves (Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, and colonial).

One major site is a reconstructed council chamber, designated the “earth lodge,” with a circle of seats around the outside, each one larger and higher until one reaches a platform across from the door, with three seats on it for the leaders. There was a fire pit in the middle and four oak trunk pillars holding up the roof. Unfortunately, the interior was too dark for good photographs.

In common with the Etowah, Cahokia, and Kolomoki sites, Ocmulgee has a large temple mound, built up over many years, one basketful of soil at a time. The parking lot in the front is actually a former railway cutting which destroyed two-thirds of another mound in the nineteenth century. To think that people used to do this!

2. We then headed on to St. Augustine, Florida, which we had been wanting to see for some time. Like Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., it is a coastal settlement from the early days of European contact; unlike those cities, it is significantly older, having been founded by the Spanish in the mid-sixteenth century. Unfortunately, today it is also a lot more touristy, since it it within the orbit of Disney World and possesses a nice beach. But the Castillo de San Marcos remains a well-run historical site.

The fort itself dates from 1672. It was transferred to the British in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War, and back to Spain in 1783 after the American War of Independence. It became American after the United States annexed Florida in 1821 (and was briefly Confederate in 1861-62). It was last used for military purposes during the Spanish-American war, when it served as a prison for deserters. These and other aspects of the fort’s history are detailed in signage and presented by uniformed guides, some of whom will demonstrate firing a canon at set times.

From Wikipedia, an arial view of the place, showing the early modern star-fort design:

Confederate Monuments

While in Richmond we got a chance to see the Museum of the Confederacy. It is completely surrounded (and dwarfed) by the Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital and parking ramp, somewhat surprisingly – you’d think that they would have restricted development around such hallowed ground. But I suspect that time has passed it by. The original museum was housed in the White House of the Confederacy; in 1976 it was moved to a purpose-built building next door, while the house was restored to how it might have looked when Jeff Davis lived there. It’s clear that they have tried to make it more of a museum and less of a shrine, but the main exhibit can’t seem to get beyond its roots: you go through a chronological timeline of battles and other events, but all that’s on display are things like Lee’s overcoat or Longstreet’s sword or Johnston’s overcoat or Stuart’s overcoat. I did like the second floor, which was devoted to the various Confederate flags and clearly the work of John Coski, whose book on the subject I quite admire. (I was unaware of the existence of RuPaul as “Miss Rachel Tensions” in the 1995 movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.) The basement had some interesting social-history what-nots, like a keepsake made of human hair or a hat made of corn husks, although not all of this was Confederate as such.

Lately, this Museum of the Confederacy has merged with two other museums: one at Appomattox Court House, the site of Lee’s surrender in April of 1865, and one at Historic Tredegar, which is located on Richmond’s waterfront and was once the site of a gun foundry. We did not have time to go to Tredegar, but it apparently deals with the war from the Union, Confederate and slave perspectives. This new three-site institution is known as the American Civil War Museum and its motto is “Confederacy, Union, Freedom” – reflecting the mandate of the Tredegar site more than that of the Museum of the Confederacy site. So I suspect that if you are in Richmond, and you only have time to see one, you should probably go to Tredegar.

We did cruise up and down Monument Avenue, and marveled at the outsized monuments to Stuart, Lee, Jackson and Davis (there were also monuments to oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury and African-American tennis star Arthur Ashe; I think they need more such non-Confederate statues).

On the grounds of the State Capitol is an equestrian statue of Washington and six other famous Virginians. This was unveiled in the 1850s. The image of Washington on his horse was reproduced on the Great Seal of the Confederacy.

Via Wikipedia. The date, 22 February 1862, is when the CSA’s constitution went into effect and Jeff Davis was officially inaugurated to his six year term as president. The Confederates admired Washington as someone who had led a successful armed rebellion against a stronger foe.

Not far from the State Capitol is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, another site with Confederate associations (both Lee’s and Davis’s pews are marked). I confess that I was taken aback by this stained glass window:

I like the Egyptian details. The white writing reads: “By faith Moses refused to be called the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter choosing rather to suffer affliction with the children of God for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” and below that, across the bottom “In Grateful Memory of Robert Edward Lee, Born January 19, 1807.” This is a rather interesting way of viewing Lee’s resignation of his federal commission in order to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. Sorry, I think that African-American slaves have a much better claim to the notion that they were akin to the Hebrews in Egypt.

But speaking of things Egyptian, we enjoyed seeing this building:

via Wikipedia.

It dates from 1845 and is now part of VCU – and has even made it onto the VCU seal.

Via Wikipedia. MCV = Medical College of Virginia; RPI = Richmond Professional Institute. These were merged in 1968 to form VCU.