- - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A student body composed largely of African-Americans should not, in 2020, have to attend a school named after an individual who commanded Confederate forces committed to preserving slavery. Cheryl Chumley’s June 11 column, “And like that, America’s history is scrubbed,” fails to empathize with this very reasonable sentiment.

Specifically, Ms. Chumley bemoans the fact that statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee were brought down by protesters in Montgomery, Alabama, and other places throughout the country. While I in no way condone vandalism or destruction of property, it is important to understand the context behind the June 1 (also an Alabama state holiday commemorating Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ birthday) toppling of the Lee statue in front of Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery.

This school opened it doors in 1955 as an all-white school. It should not be lost on anyone that this was just a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools, and that the naming of the school was not a coincidence but rather an overt flaunting of the historic ruling.

Moreover, the Lee statue was not put in front of the high school until it was moved there from another location in May 1960. Most importantly Lee High School wasn’t integrated until 1964, when three black students were finally permitted to enroll.

Today more than 80% of Lee’s students are black. Aside from the fact that Lee was a traitor, he had little connection to Alabama, having been born in Virginia and having never lived in the Yellowhammer State.

In light of that backstory, it is perfectly understandable that an overwhelmingly black student body would not want its school to continue to be associated with someone who led the charge to keep African-Americans second-class citizens.


Ellicott City, Md.

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