On my recent visit to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, I began thinking about the men the school honors with its name. I wondered how an institution of higher learning could pay homage to a military leader, loyal to the Confederacy, whose main goal was to secede from the United States and preserve the institution of slavery.
I did some research and found that many have written about this issue, seeing merit for support on both sides of the argument. I find it hard to do so. While Lee was a president of the university immediately following the war, was instrumental in moving the university into a more modern era of education, was the architect of the honor code, expanded the university curriculum and started the law school, it does not negate his earlier role in the Civil War or the causes he championed.
This past summer’s events in nearby Charlottesville, where white supremacists rallied against the liberal values of the town and killed counter protester Heather Heyer, remind us that the values of the Confederacy are not all that foreign to certain people in this country.
I invite you to read an article in New York Times written by Pasquale S. Toscano, a recent graduate of Washington and Lee, discussing the university’s namesakes.
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