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My Reaction to Charlottesville by A. Peter Bailey

Sept. 3, 2017

Reality Check

My Reaction to Charlottesville
By A. Peter Bailey


( - The barrage of commentary from the Charlottesville confrontation by lovers and supporters of the former Confederate States of America, especially in regards to General Robert E. Lee, brought back memories of my reaction to an obnoxious statement made by prominent American historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Extremely irritated by the demands from those advocating an Afrocentric interpretation of American history, Schlesinger, who was a swooning admirer of President John F. Kennedy, accused us of “using history as therapy.”

My response to him was included in a December 17-19,1992 column written for the Richmond Free Press. Schlesinger, I noted, “has written history books, books that barely mention anyone other than White males. If anyone can be said to have used history, not only as therapy, but as a powerful instrument for promoting and defending the interests of people of European descent, it’s Schlesinger and his colleagues in colleges and universities throughout the country.”

I continued, “I don’t recall ever hearing or reading an article or book in which Schlesinger charged romanticizing supporters of the Confederate enslavers of African people as using history as therapy. Those people marching in Charlottesville and their past and present fellow believers have almost made most people ignore the fact that Robert E. Lee and all those other Confederate generals who were West Point graduates committed treason (“The betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it…”) and thus were in every sense of the word traitors (“one who betrays one’s country, a cause or a trust especially one who commits treason”) to the United States.

They all swore the following oath while at West Point:

“I, ______________, appointed a __________ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear to affirm that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.”

Lee, when he joined the Confederacy, not only violated every single word of that oath, he also led armies that killed many thousands of United States military personnel. Through the years, this country has jailed and/or executed many people for doing much less than what Lee did. Brother Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers were assassinated for doing much less against the government of this country.

Having said this, I still believe that rather than tearing down statues of Lee and other Confederates on public land, we should demand that statues of Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey and other warriors against the enslavement of African people be installed on public lands. And they must be the same size or larger than those of the treasonous Confederate enslavers.

A. Peter Bailey, whose latest book is Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, the Master Teacher, can be reached at

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