Week 1: Veterans' Day
For those that served, thank you. For your community service, thank you.
I also want to send a reminder that Thomas Jackson, Turner Ashby, and Robert Lee were veterans of the Confederate States, not the United States of America. These men fought to rend the United States of America into two parts - not to preserve it, nor to eradicate slavery. True liberty, as we see even today, is something we continue to work at in the USA. It took the 13th & 14th Constitutional Amendments, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and more for discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin to be dealt with in our country. During the 1860s, these leaders didn't care to extend citizenship to African Americans, Indigenous Peoples, or even women. Thus today, I do not thank Jackson, Ashby, or Lee. And I am grateful their names no longer grace Honey Run Elementary School and Mountain View High School in Shenandoah County, Virginia - due to a 2020 decision by our school board to rename schools.
And yet, in July 2022, three new school board members attempted to revert to the previous school names in an effort to reset justice. While the vote stalemated, a message was sent into the community: wait until there are more of us with the opinion of resetting the decision and then we will see how you like the process. That means, there's only approximately 52 weeks for me to somehow get this message through that these Confederate leaders are not the best role models we need to set for our children and for our community.
This week, I'm sharing an excerpt from Battleground Adventures by Clifton Johnson (1865-1940) that gives testimony from a Slave Blacksmith owned by Mr. Lewis in the Bull Run area (where we get our VHSL district name):
"We colored people knew that the war was on foot, and we thought slavery wound n't be allowed any mo' if the North won. Very few of us could read at all or even knew the alphabet, and our masters would have kept us ignorant about the meaning of the war, but the news leaked out so we got hold of it slightly...
"We wanted liberty... Planters from farther South would come hyar to market and buy up laborers for their tobacco and cotton plantations, and I've seen those slaves goin' along handcuffed, and they'd be put in jail at night to keep 'em from tryin' to escape. We was n't allowed to go visitin' from house to house. They had paterollers who went about on horseback at night and patrolled all the roads. Those paterollers would come to your house to see who you'd got there, and who was out of place. If they found you on the highway without a pass from your boss, and you could n't give a satisfactory account of yourself, they'd lay on so many lashes" (1915:54-55).
Jackson, Ashby, and Lee fought to keep colored people like this blacksmith enslaved. They fought for the CSA, not the USA. Their names have no place on public school buildings in The United States of America.
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SENK is an artist and writer in the Shenandoah Valley. The blog, 52 Weeks, is an ethical contemplation on the importance of choosing public school names that are not divisive within a community. Each post is based on over seven years of research by the author. 52 Weeks is a compassionate appeal to community and school board members to not revert to the names of Confederate leaders for Shenandoah County, Va, public schools.