Wherein Black People Have to Go to School with Confederates

Elie Mystal, Above the Law, April 15, 2014

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee accepted a position as president of what was then called Washington College. By all accounts, he served the school well and had a nice end of life. After his death, Washington College was renamed Washington & Lee.

Today, many black people attend the university that bears Marse Robert’s surname, so I guess we won. But a group of black law students at Washington & Lee Law School is getting really sick of the university’s consistent, stars-and-bars waving support of Lee’s legacy and the whitewashing (no pun intended) of what that legacy represents.


Again, black people could have probably known what kind of university they were getting involved with when they applied to Washington & Lee, but if you want to know what’s pissing the black law students off, I can begin to explain in a picture:


Now, I don’t know if a tomb to a dead general crosses that intangible line from historical preservation to offensive nostalgia. But when you couple those traditions with other things black law students at W&L are complaining about, you can understand their problem. Here is a list of demands from a group of black law students calling themselves “The Committee”:

Here is a list of the FOUR DEMANDS:

1. We demand that the University fully recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the undergraduate campus.

2. We demand that the University stop allowing neo-confederates to march on campus with confederate flags on Lee-Jackson Day.

3. We demand that the University immediately remove all confederate flags from its property and premises, including those flags located within Lee Chapel.

4. We demand that the University issue an official apology for the University’s participation in chattel slavery, including a denunciation of General Robert E. Lee’s participation in slavery.

If the school does not act by SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 we WILL engage in civil disobedience.


Click through to Above the Law: Redline to see the response from the Washington & Lee administration. Apparently, they have black friends . . . .

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