Week 2: Confederate Congress
On November 18th, 1861, after the first permanent election of a new government (The Confederate States of America on November 6th of the same year), the Provisional Congress of the CSA met. It was the fifth meeting since February, with each meeting occurring in State Capitol buildings of the United States of America. First in Montgomery, AL, then in Richmond, VA. You can read more about the history of the legislative branch of the CSA at Wiki or, better yet, see the governing Constitution they created here. While all laws they created were secondary to their primary goal of winning the American Civil War, it's important to note the following in that Constitution, which is not a part of the Constitution of the United States of America:
- Sec. 7. (1) The importation of African negroes from any foreign country other than the slave-holding States of the United States, is hereby forbidden; and Congress are required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.
- Sec. 7. (2) The Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of this Confederacy.
- Section 2. - (3) A slave in one State escaping to another, shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom said slave may belong by the executive authority of the State in which such slave shall be found, and in case of any abduction or forcible rescue, full compensation, including the value of the slave and all costs and expenses, shall be made to the party, by the State in which such abduction or rescue shall take place" (Richardson, 1905).
Now, let me share with you a personal experience from August 25, 2019 in New Market, VA. I attended the funeral of an African American woman from my community. It wasn't the first time I was one of the only white people at an event, but in Shenandoah County that doesn't happen often. Afterwards, everyone gathered on the lawn of the Church, right along Route 11. As I stood sharing condolences with family members, a loud truck slowly drove by, brandishing a Confederate flag on it. Not the flag you see in the Wiki article above (we'll talk about that again), but the Confederate war flag that so many Southern white people claim as a heritage flag today.
My eyes were not the only ones watching the flag drive by. I glanced around and noticed the heads of every person on that lawn - their brown complexions shimmering in the sunlight - also following the movement of that truck, of that flag. But in their eyes, I saw fear and I saw acknowledgement of the hatred that such a flag was exuding in that moment as these Americans were mourning the loss of someone so dear to them. People who were directly descended from ancestors that had been enslaved in Shenandoah Valley were standing there in that moment and did not recognize the "heritage." They saw the hatred that divided our country and that left ancestors of the Confederacy blinded to demarcate African American men, women, and even children not as People or Humans, but as Slaves, as Chattel that could be sold like cattle at a stock market and buried like cattle along a fence line, often in unmarked graves.
Symbols and names that bring to mind these ideals and old truths of inequality have no place on a PUBLIC school building or any PUBLIC building or space, for that matter, where African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, and other minority groups must go to receive an education, to pay their taxes, or to do anything as a Citizen of The United States of America.
Please ruminate on this experience and on this history. And then remember that the current names Mountain View and Honey Run offer peace and equality to all people in our community. The previous names are divisive and, frankly, cruel.
2/10/2023 07:13:14 pm
Agreed in full!
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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.