VMI Alum: Whole Story Of Lee, Jackson Should Be Told

July 27, 2020

Editor, The News-Gazette;

Let’s start with transparency

I am a graduate of VMI.

I consider slavery at it roots an abomination. Worse was the slave trade during the mid-19th century which William Wilberforce, an Englishman and member of Parliament, tirelessly tried to stop. Watch the movie “Amazing Grace.”

There is much talk today of removing Confederate statutes, renaming schools, hospitals, and military facilities named after Confederate generals. I will not weigh in on that now.

What I would like to remind your readers is that, though Jackson owned slaves, he was considered the black man’s friend. Author Richard G. Williams wrote the book with the same title, “The Black Man’s Friend.”

I think it is also worth sharing that Jackson and his wife had a Sunday school class for Blacks at the Presbyterian Church in Lexington. I believe that his desire was first, to teach the students how to read, so that they could understand the biblical lessons and learn about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Descendents of those Sunday school children actually founded a church in Roanoke where one of the stained glass windows depicts Jackson and his last words before he entered eternity, “Let us cross over the river and rest beneath the shade of the tree.”

I think the noted historian James Robertson’s comments are worth considering as history judges Stonewall, “Jackson neither apologized for not spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. He probably opposed the institution. Yet in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence. The good Christian slaveholder was one who treated his servants fairly and humanely at all times.”

Slavery was absolutely wrong and needed to be abolished. But it is quite unfair to denigrate the lives of men like Jackson and Lee without telling the whole story which should include their compassion for the Black man.

ANDY WILLIAMS VMI class of 1965 Trustee, George C. Marshall Foundaiton