Virginia’s new governor has finally gotten a mention in the Parade magazine supplement that comes with most Sunday newspapers. No, Bob McDonnell’s trip to Ireland is not the subject. Instead, it’s his first proclamation of April as Confederate History Month, the one which praised “the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War” and failed to mention slavery.
The furor that followed that act, of course, compelled McDonnell to re-issue the proclamation with an appropriate section about the fact that “the institution of slavery led to this war” and that it “was an evil and inhumane practice.”
Connie Schultz, the BackPage editor of Parade and a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, noted that, “McDonnell eventually relented, but the damage was done.” For her, the incident brought back a 1985 visit with a friend who lived in a “small Virginia town named for her family.” That friend told that her that “our slaves were happy,” that her ancestors “were good people.”
“My friend revealed why some Southerners still try to explain away historical horrors. For many, the blood of slaves pools at the roots of their family trees,” Schultz noted.
Schultz’s antidote for the revulsion she felt at McDonnell’s proclamation was to watch again the groundbreaking television series, “Roots.”
When Schultz first watched “Roots” in 1977, she was a college student. This time, she brought her experiences as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother to viewing the series.
“I clutched my chest when Bell clawed at the dirt and howled as a slave owner dragged off her daughter, Kizzy, who was crying with outstretched arms for mother. I felt a daughter’s ragged pride when, years later, Kizzy carved her father’s African name on the headstone at his grave…The teenage Kunta couldn’t outrun the hunters who trapped him like a wild animal. They ripped him from his family and the land of his birth, chained him to the filthy bowels of a slave ship, and shipped him to a land far, far away. And then a white man owned Kunta Kinte for the rest of his days. This, too, is part of the history of the Confederacy. This, too, is the story of America.”
This, too, is integral to the Confederate history of Virginia, Gov. McDonnell. Unfortunately, your thoughtless original proclamation caused some people to view the Commonwealth as a place where racism and revisionist history are alive and well. Correcting it only when political heat was on was better than nothing, but it didn’t reflect well on you or this state.