09 February 2009

Inclusiveness Works Both Ways

Many academics like to call for "plurality" and "inclusiveness" when discussing "Southern heritage" (as if no one is already doing just that). I have no objection to a broader commemoration regarding Southern heritage. As a matter of fact, I called for that very thing in my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class.

But I really grow weary of this worn-out (and boring) straw man complaint as my own work in the various aspects of Southern heritage and history reveals I have supported a much broader concept of Southern heritage than just the Confederacy and her war heroes for years. So to the critics who complain, but do nothing, welcome to the party. But I have a suggestion for you, instead of just complaining and putting forth ill-informed criticism about what others aren't doing, why don't you do something - don't just curse the darkness, light a candle, as the cliche goes.

At one time, I published a number of out of print titles that I thought needed to be made available again. The 2nd of those books I published was Rhapsody in Black - The Life Story of John Jasper, an inspiring story of this most amazing 19th century slave preacher. I think every child in America should read Jasper's story. It is truly remarkable. As a result of publishing that book, I thought it would be a good idea to place a historical marker to commemorate his birthplace in Fluvanna County, Virginia. I helped write the text and also helped pay for this marker. (Pictured here.)

Moreover, as a result of my research in writing the book about Jackson and his efforts to evangelize slaves and free blacks in Lexington, Virginia during the 1850's, I discovered that there had been an African-American cemetery in present day Lexington that had never been properly recognized. The community, with just a few exceptions, had ignored this sad story for decades. To remedy the situation, I, along with other members of my local SCV camp and a couple of Lexington citizens, funded a historical marker which marks the historical significance of this cemetery. You can see an image of that marker and read more about the story behind it here, here, and here.

So, for my part, the only two historical markers that I've had a hand in writing the text for, and financing, are focused not on the Confederacy, but on this broader aspect of Southern heritage which includes African-American heritage.

Regarding this broader perspective, I wrote the following in my book:

"Yet some voices defending Southern heritage are just as shrill and dishonoring to the worthy heritage of black Americans, each side shouting so loudly that they cannot hear the other. Both sides would be well advised to remember the apostle Paul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love.” More desirous of being right than being righteous, some defenders of Southern culture and heritage have done more harm than good to their cause."

But let's not forget that "inclusiveness" works both ways and that the constant mocking, impugning, derisive, and dismissive attitude by academics and politicians directed toward those who want to include the Confederacy and her war heroes in Southern heritage commemoration only poisons the discussion and results in a shouting match. The assumptions some folks make on this topic reveal an agenda, a shallowness in perspective, and a lack of actual knowledge regarding the subject, does it not?


13thBama said...

Mr. Williams,

I applaud your efforts and wish that we had more people like you. God bless and keep up the good work.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you sir, but I'm quite sure that one is enough of me.