The descendants of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson are speaking out about statues of their notorious Confederate ancestors. And they’re all just fine with moving the statues out of public parks.
In the wake of this weekend’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, cities across the country have been removing Confederate memorials. Some — including the president — argue that these changes attempt to erase history.
Lee’s great-great-grandson Robert E. Lee V told CNN that it actually might be better to remove the statue from Charlottesville and put it in a museum.
“If they choose to take those statues down, fine,” he said. "Maybe it's appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard."
Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, also spoke to CNN’s Don Lemon. Hayes-Davis called for moving the statue of Jefferson Davis into a museum: "In a public place, if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it, let's move it,” he said. “Let's put it somewhere where historically it fits with the area around it so you can have people come to see it, who want to understand that history and that individual."
In May, just a few months before the violence in Charlottesville, Hayes-Davis told the New York Times he was more interested in getting Americans to understand his great-great-grandfather than protesting the memorial’s removal:
I think the statue itself is indicative of the problem of America, in that we’re reducing history to one sentence and then we add connotations onto it: Jefferson Davis created slavery. Oh really? Or, Jefferson Davis created the Confederacy. The problem we have in America is we don’t have a lens to understand history through. We have to look at a lens from that period of time, and we also have to have to look at the lens that the person had at that period of time.
Even Stonewall Jackson’s great-great-grandsons wrote an open letter published in Slate addressed to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. They requested the removal of all Confederate statues from the Virginia city’s Monument Avenue.
“They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display,” they wrote.
The relatives, William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian, wrote that another one of their ancestors, Laura Jackson Arnold, would be a better fit for a memorial than the Confederate general:
In fact, instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister — our great-great-grandaunt — Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.