Document Type

Article

Abstract

After the Civil War, Charles Sumner said of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, "hand him over to the avenging pen of history." But has history been so been so avenging to Lee? In "The Forgotten Sins of Robert E. Lee: How a Confederate Icon Became an American Icon," this thesis argues that textbooks, public memory, and popular culture have collectively obscured the historical reality of Lee. In the years following the Civil War, the complex and tangled history of Lee as a slaveholding southerner were overlooked and, in many instances, erased in an effort to reunify North and South. In the process the enslaved people Lee fought to keep oppressed were tragically disregarded. Lee became a reconciliation point for Northern white men, including President Ulysses S. Grant and prominent abolitionists Gerrit Smith and Henry Ward Beecher. In this senior thesis, I examine the issue of Lee in modern day and comment on the hundreds of statues and memorials erected to the Confederate general. In considering whether contemporary American society should retain Confederate monuments, this thesis focuses on two prominent statues to Lee located in Virginia: Edward Valentine's 1875 Recumbent State of Robert E. Lee located in Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University and Antonin Mercie's statue of Lee located on Monument Row in Richmond, Virginia. On December 7, 2019 this thesis was publicly and successfully defended.

Share

COinS