Alexandria The flying and subsequent removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., has focused attention on symbols of the Confederacy elsewhere. They often represented the canard of the apologists of the day that the Civil War was some noble lost cause that was about states’ rights. School text books sugar-coat what was morally reprehensible without offending a large number of people. The cause was never noble — it was slavery and the right of states to retain and expand it. It was the burning issue of the day. The fact that the North was not without complicity does not change this basic fact.
Appomattox, a bronze statue of Confederate soldier, stands facing south at Washington and Prince streets. When it was erected in 1889, veterans and their families were not so far removed from their sacrifice and loss. I remember segregationists rallying to it as a symbol of defiance to civil rights. The fact that it cannot be removed without the approval of the Commonwealth is telling. Alexandria was not immune to Jim Crow.
Alexandria fought the desegregation of schools; it had “White Only” and “Negro” rest rooms and drinking fountains. Looked at from the landscape of Alexandria today, it may well seem a quaint historical relic.
Nevertheless, it is time to move the statue to where its presence no longer will imply that neither the Commonwealth of Virginia, for its approval is required, nor the City of Alexandria sympathizes with the Confederate cause. There are appropriate venues — perhaps, amidst graves of Confederate soldiers. (Maybe away from the perils of traffic, one could actually safely read the names.) It is fitting that we pay homage to those who fought and died, bravely and even nobly, even though the cause for which they fought was ignoble.