WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO REWRITE HISTORY?
The recent trend by social activists to remove any traces of segregation on the history books cannot be justified just because some group believes there was a racial injustice. Most notable in the news is the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capital building and other evidence in public places of Southern rebel tradition.
Throughout the Southern states are monuments dedicated to the heroes of the Civil War as well as displays of the Confederate flag. Is it improper for these historic symbols to be obliterated just because some modern day group believes they represent white supremacy and the evils of segregation? Those efforts are outright examples of rewriting history. That is wrong.
Besides the dozens of protest rallies and state legal procedures eliminating many of the Civil War monuments, certain organizations have picked up the cause to discredit individuals who are considered national celebrities and highly regarded for a century or more for their accomplishments. Here are two outrageous examples.
Princeton University was proud that its former president, Woodrow Wilson, became President of the United States during an extremely critical time in our history before and after World War I. He was an advocate for the League of Nations (the model for today’s European Union) and received many honors in his lifetime. Now a group of students want the university to remove his name from memorials on campus because they consider him to have been in favor of segregation.
Christopher Eisgruber , the current president of Princeton University, was under siege from the Black Justice League but refused to remove Wilson’s name from a campus building. He agreed to consider installing a plaque on the building that formally recognizes Wilson’s failures and shortcomings as a racist.
Come on now! President Wilson was raised in Virginia before the Civil War and was only living in the world of his generation that kept segregation for at least another 50 years after his death. Few Ivy League Colleges were admitting African-American students during Wilson’s tenure as president of Princeton or during his administration as president of the United States. That was history.
If Princeton and other universities and public buildings in the South pursue removing any reference to the Confederate States and post-Civil War segregation, they are just rewriting history.
Should we rename the Jefferson Memorial because the third president of the United States kept slaves? Will we put a plaque on the Washington Monument denouncing the first president of the United States as a white supremacist because he kept slaves? Where will the rewriting of history stop?
My second example concerns the unwarranted action by the Sierra Club to denounce and remove reference to a founding member of the club. Prof. Joseph LeConte was a member of the original faculty at the University of California in 1879 and was regarded during his lifetime as a highly regarded educator. His attraction to the Sierra Nevada and his friendship with John Muir resulted in the founding of the Sierra Club in 1892.
After LeConte’s death while camping with his family in Yosemite National Park in 1901, a Memorial Lodge was constructed nearby his last camp as a Sierra Club Visitor Center in 1904. Prof. LeConte’s son, nicknamed “Little Joe,” was a long-time president of the club and his descendants continued to be significant supporters of the club and the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley with collections of club and family history data.
Recently the leaders of the Sierra Club have determined that LeConte was a white supremacist because he wrote extensively about the relationship of evolution to religious dogma. One published essay written in 1892, among numerous books and other dissertations, has been identified as inappropriate in today’s social environment relating to racism 124 years later.
The action taken here was the removal of Joseph LeConte’s name from the Memorial Lodge built in his honor at Yosemite National Park. Denouncing Prof. LeConte as a white supremacist is another example of rewriting history.
The LeConte family were Huguenot immigrants in the late 18th century and settled in Georgia in 1750 on a 3000 acre plantation with 200 slaves. This was where Joseph LeConte was born and raised before the Civil War. Family records indicate that the devastation by Gen. Sherman’s army to the family property was drastic, but the slaves stayed on helping the women and children to survive during and after the war while LeConte foraged for food and supplies in unoccupied areas.
This was the environment that Joseph LeConte experienced while he received a university education and began teaching at the University of Georgia before the hostilities. During the reconstruction period, Joseph LeConte and his brother John found teaching in the southern states difficult due to their southern sympathies. They both joined the brand-new University of California at Berkeley to recruit a faculty in 1869.
Here is a brief quote used by the Sierra Club for the expulsion of Joseph LeConte from club recognition. It is a paper published in 1892 as part of the professor’s expertise in matching human evolution to current trends of religious rejection of Darwin’s theories.
He wrote, “The Negro has many fine and hopeful qualities. He is plastic, domicile, impressionable, sympathetic, imitative, and therefore in a high degree improvable by contact with a superior race and under suitable conditions. It is doubtful if any other race could have so thrived and improved under slavery as a Negro has done. But, although the Negro by means of slavery has been raised above slavery, it would be a great mistake to suppose that he has yet reached the position of equality with the white race that unassisted he can found in a free civilized community.”
In 1892 this was not an unusual position of a white person raised in the South before the Civil War. It was the universal custom for large land owners to have slaves to tend their crops. The views expressed above represent the white class of the South who generally provided for their slaves, especially in the LeConte family. However, it was not the social custom of the early 19th century to socialize with African Americans.
If these modern day revisionists want to rewrite the history of our country to suit their beliefs, how about some of the 20th century government actions that certainly reflect an element of racism. One of the most publicized and ongoing resolutions is the internment of Japanese residents at the beginning of World War II as a national security measure. Can this unfortunate treatment of mostly innocent American citizens be taken away from the history of our country?
Those groups today who demand restitution would probably like a plaque to be placed on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home at Hyde Park or the Roosevelt Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC that would apologize for this affront to mankind. And how about President Harry Truman giving the order to drop the atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II? That should really upset the modern-day revisionists who haven’t as yet found a way to write this out of the history books while so many war veterans are still alive because of the bomb that ended the war. I was one of them.
In fact, segregation was still dominant in the mid-20th century not only in the South but in other areas of the United States. Examples are my service in the segregated US Army in 1946 and growing up in a Los Angeles environment that prohibited Jews from living in certain high-end areas or belonging to the exclusive clubs for gentiles only.
That was the history of the mid-20th century that cannot be changed and should not be apologized for.
Unfortunately, the current presidential campaign is focusing attention on racial differences, again. This time the target is emigration from the Muslim nations were perceived by certain politicians as threats to Western civilization. I believe it is time for these history revisionists to stop sucking up their hate and spreading it out all over their networking systems