Charlottesville Virginia’s Lee Park History
Lee park is named after General Robert Edward Lee. Although it was recently renamed as Emancipation Park. The park has a rich history. He is the emblematic personality of which the American extreme right wants to defend the sad heritage. The figure of General Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) is at the heart of the violent clashes which turned into drama on Saturday, August 12 in Charlottesville. A man driving his car drove into a group of anti-racist activists, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 people.
Since 1924, the equestrian statue of General Lee dominates the Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, formerly Lee Park. The General led the Confederate troops of slave states during the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. His career and his commitment to slavery won the support of many neo-Nazis and assimilated, such as Richard Spencer , media figure of the white supremacy, which calls for “peaceful ethnic cleansing”. But in February 2017, the decision of the municipality to withdraw this statue, following a municipal referendum, set fire to the powder. Since then, radical, racist and anti-Semitic groups have been gathering to protest.
A controversial course. The story of this soldier has long remained opaque. Edward Bonekemper III, author of the book “How Robert E. Lee lost the Civil War”, tells the Washington Post that General Lee has been a leading figure in “the most successful propaganda campaign in the history of the America”.Thus, he was long presented by his followers as a hero: brilliant strategist and devoted Christian, he would have supported the abolition of slavery after Civil War. In this famous letter, he develops his thought, and believes in reality that slavery is beneficial for blacks. In addition, he himself had a dozen slaves, and encouraged physical violence against them. Lee did not hesitate to ask his foremen to hit those who had tried to escape, reports the Chicago Tribune. On the military side, his outstanding strategist qualities of the Southern army have also been belied by many historians such as Russel Weigley. “Like Napoleon, he had this passion for a strategy of annihilation, but instead of destroying enemy armies, he ended up destroying himself.”
Lee’s incompetence was particularly illustrated during the Battle of Gettysburg, during which he sent his troops to fight in the open. This episode led to the death of more than 6,000 of his soldiers.Posthumous rehabilitation. In 1975, General Lee was posthumously rehabilitated by President Gerald Ford, who paid tribute to him for his role in the reunification of the United States after the American Civil War. He thus regains his civic rights and American citizenship, from which he was deposed as a former Confederate soldier. Since then, many tributes have been paid in the country (statues, streets, schools …), to the cinema with “Gone with the wind” , and many monuments are erected in his honor.The extreme right, who protests against the withdrawal of his statue in Charlottesville, has every reason to admire this historical figure, true incarnation of white supremacy. His flawless patriotism makes him a very controversial icon.
In 2016, Wes Bellamy, one of Charlottesville City Councilors, called for the removal of the statue. At the same time, a student also decided to submit a petition to the town hall to demand the name change of Lee Park . In February 2017, when the mayor validates the debunking of the statue, right-wing extremists denounce loudly the illegality of the decision and pursue the city in court. Pending the decision of the judges, the statue of General Robert Edward Lee is still in its place.