Learning the terrible truth about slavery
Ben Ragsdale’s letter, “Move the statues and get on with the work,” includes the important point of symbolism in removing monuments commemorating the Civil War, specifically Monument Avenue’s Confederate generals. Removal of the statues signals to all our commitment to coming together as one. There is no question of the aesthetics of the finely sculpted statue of Robert E. Lee, but I know it should be off its pedestal and placed in a museum where it may be admired and explained in the context of its time.
My own childhood was spent in rural Piedmont, during the days of Jim Crow. My father’s family had lived there for more than 300 years. My upbringing was filled with incorrect history lessons about slavery, the Civil War, and blacks in general. Learning and living with the truth is an ongoing process for me and for anyone who grew up filled with “Gone with the Wind”-inspired romantic notions.
Three books have particularly given me a vastly clearer understanding of the truth: Isabel Williamson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a non-fiction account of those living under Jim Crow; Ya Gyasi’s, “Homecoming,” a novel of slavery over the generations in one family, and Colson Whitehead’s searing novel, “The Underground Railroad,” a vivid story of slaves’ lives. That book left me with no question about the statues’ removal.
MELISSA WIMBISH FERRELL.