Robert E. Lee - 1863
THE RICHMOND HISTORIC
Richmond, Virginia, has restored an old canal. Beside the canal, they have constructed a walkway. Adjacent to the walkway is a floodwall which they have decorated with murals depicting Richmond's historic events and figures. The murals were hung on June 2, 1999.
One of the murals was of Robert E. Lee.
Black activist City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin met with the "Richmond Historic Riverfront Foundation" and threatened a boycott if the Lee portrait remained. On June 3, 1999 they took the Lee mural down.
A few comments...
June 5, 1999 UPDATE
The committee has decided to put Lee on the Wall! However, it will not be the photo at the top of this page. Instead it will be this one:
This photo was selected because it was taken in Richmond after the war. But it is not over with yet. The committee is going to exhibit the murals, including Lee, from July 5 thru 11 and ask for public (residents) comments and says it may make adjustments if necessary.
July 18, 1999 UPDATE
After the review period, the Committee reaffirmed its decision to place Lee's likeness on the wall. City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin immediately moved that the City Council block putting any murals on the wall. This, in direct contradiction to elected black leaders who said that Lee should be on the wall. According to formalities, the resolution must be addressed at the next council meeting. Accordingly, no murals will be hung until after the city council acts. Some wag suggested that they tear down the flood wall. Then, the next flood will resolve all of the canal walk's problems.
It is interesting to note that, at the same time, a big deal was being made of
an exhibit of the Pharaohs being shown in Richmond. Weren't the Children of
Israel held in slavery by the Pharaohs? We heard no outcry about that.
VIRGINIA BEACH PROVES THE WHOLE STATE IS NOT DUMB!
On July 19, 1999 Virginia Beach honored 24 Virginia Legends, when they opened their "Virginia Legends Walk". The 24 Legends were determined by 570 judges from 101 nominees selected by the public. The judges consisted of history professors, museum directors, news organizations, and others. Each of the judges voted, and the top 24 nominees, ranked by the number of votes received, were selected.
According to the Richmond Times Dispatch (July 20, 1999) Thomas Jefferson was first, beating out George Washington by three votes. Third was...you guessed it...Robert E. Lee, followed by Patrick Henry, Edgar Allen Poe, etc. Stonewall Jackson was 14th! Among the blacks selected were Arthur Ashe and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Mr. Ashe's sister, Loretta Harris, represented her family at the dedication, and Richard Bland Lee, the general's cousin, twice removed, represented the Lees. All of the "Legends" were shown the respect they deserved.
Quite a contrast to Richmond.
Guess we'll visit Virginia Beach before we visit the Richmond Canal.
After several hours of comments by the public and the ranting and raving of Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin, the Richmond City Council voted 8 to 1 against El-Amin's resolution to have no murals on the floodwall, and 6 to 3 in favor of the resolution placing the murals, including Lee, on the floodwall. Although the defense of Lee on the council was lukewarm at best, it did show that there are people on the council who can look objectively and fairly at Richmond's history and who will not agree with the distortion of history.
Of course, El-Amin is not finished. We are of the opinion that he will milk this for all of the publicity that
he can get. So the next step will probably be a lawsuit. In the end, however,
he will lose, as well he should. It would be interesting to find out what
he gained from starting this controversy.
The beat goes on! Now the black associations are shunning the two black council members who had the intelligence to understand history and the need for racial compromise by voting for the Lee Mural to be restored to the wall. Since over 50% of the blacks in a recent Richmond Times Dispatch's poll and an overwhelming majority of people who viewed the Murals during the committee's deliberations, favored the Murals, maybe these biased associations will get a wake up call at the next election.
While we can write off these events as just another of the silly things that
the Richmond City Council has become famous for over the past several years,
it is embarrassing to learn that they have gained national notoriety. In the
August 4, 1999 Richmond Times Dispatch Letters to the Editor we find this:
August 28, 1999 UPDATE
There is little news to report while new murals, including Robert E. Lee's, are being made. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch some comments made by Councilman El-Amin are being played on one of the late night network programs. He has expressed a desire to be on that program in order to explain his position. No surprise there.
We recently received an e-mail from [a northern city resident], who does not
wish to be identified, making what we think are very thoughtful statements
regarding this episode. His remarks, with some editing, can be read via this
As we await the hanging of the Lee Mural, Richmond City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin has something else demanding his attention:
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch in its September 4, 1999 edition:
"The four-year suspension of the license of Richmond City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin to practice law will take effect Oct. 1...
"The allegations of misconduct against El-Amin centered on two cases in which he accepted payments from women who wanted him to represent them in pursuing racial discrimination claims and a third case he which he took a car from a state prison inmate as payment for future legal work.
"El-Amin acknowledged that he was negligent in his representation of the two women and that he did not handle fees they advanced as legal ethics require. But he insisted he was not dishonest in those cases and eventually earned the fee represented by the car from the inmate.
"In a unanimous opinion, the state Supreme Court disagreed..."
October 26, 1999 UPDATE
Still awaiting the the hanging of the Lee Mural.
November 3, 1999 UPDATE
Well, they started hanging the "revised" murals this week. It will take two to three weeks to complete and the Lee Mural will be among the last to go up.
One of the black leaders interviewed by the Richmond Newspaper said that they weren't finished with this and that he had not been aware that the Murals were being hung.
More to come...evidently.
November 21, 1999 UPDATE
They have hung the Lee Mural on the floodwall. We visited the site (It is near 14th street) and we must say we wonder what all of the fuss was about. The whole display of murals is disappointing. The floodwall was not placed with the idea of displaying anything on it. The view of it is blocked in numerous places unless you're right in front of it. From a distance, that part of it that is visible looks like it has a bunch of billboards on it.
We took some photos and will display them later, but, at this time, it looks like
the controversy is over.
December 4, 1999 UPDATE
The Controversy was about this????
We'd be against the Lee Mural on this bizarre wall, because it does a disservice to the man!
January 18, 2000 UPDATE
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. yesterday someone burned the mural of Robert E. Lee on the floodwall. Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin said that public officials could not and should not condone acts of vandalism of public property. The Times-Dispatch reports that Police may have a suspect.
What can we say? This is a result of the level of education in history that recent generations have been given. The hot heads, who have had no history education to speak of, are reacting to the rantings of leaders who also have never studied Lee.
And what do these hot heads accomplish? Nothing less than increasing the division between the races. But maybe that's what they want.
By the way, in today's article, the Times-Dispatch repeated a statement it made during the controversy last year: "A different portrait of Lee, not in uniform, was ... put up in November." Now we ask you. Look at the top photograph on this page of Lee in 1863 in uniform and compare it with the 1865 photograph that was placed on the wall. Can you really say that Lee is not in uniform in the 1865 photograph?
January 23, 2000 UPDATE
Yesterday, in an editoral, the Richmond Times Dispatch said that if the Lee Mural was not restored, then all of the Murals should be taken down.
February 14, 2000 UPDATE
Well, the Lee Mural has been restored to the floodwall. The Richmond police have
indicated that there will be increased surveillance to insure that another attack
does not take place.