Develop A Museum Of Local Black History

July 23, 2020

Editor, The News-Gazette:

Historic Lexington itself is a museum of Confederate history. We can’t erase that, but we can expand efforts to develop an equally important museum devoted to local Black history. Lexington has a long history of good race relations between its citizens. History tells us why. Part of it, no doubt began in the late 1850’s with a white professor (future Confederal General) at VMI starting a Sunday school for slaves. Jackson’s message of God loving them and inviting them to be part of His eternal family, changed lives and grew a community of respect and good will. There really is no other explanation for Lexington’s graciousness between the races, following slavery.

It is one of several remarkable, local Black history stories worthy of preservation and a museum. But what about slaves owned by Lee and Jackson, as well as other citizens, plus VMI and W&L, the white church expansion to seat slaves, Lylburn Downing, post Civil War citizens, the founding of Randolph Methodist and First Baptist, the first Black owned businesses on Main Street, Diamond Hill, the first Black cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, the first Black men and women employed by the colleges, and the first Black men and women to enroll at VMI and W&L?

Lexington’s Black history is significant. Could not the historical societies work together, alongside history majors from our two colleges, as well as churches, to plan and create a museum? Could the result possibly reside in the empty, historic old jail on Main? I don’t see recent national events meaning dark days for Lexington. I see Historic Lexington telling the truth, with no cover ups, no matter how good, bad, or ugly. May God bless Lexington, Virginia.