Admiring Lee for Who He Was

Published:April 14, 2010 by Brendan Wolfe

In the wake of Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s declaration of Confederate History Month and all the resulting hoopla, Ta-Nehisi Coates considers the memory of Robert E. Lee. In so doing, he quotes a lecture by Elizabeth Brown Pryor that aired on C-SPAN:

It’s wrong to turn [Lee] into this unreal person. And I’ll tell you what I would propose. I think those people who admire him, and I put myself among them, the greatest thing you can do to honor him is love him for who he was. Because if you make him up, if you say he was all these things, you know he never drank a drop of whiskey, he never lost a battle he just ran out of ammunition, he was anĀ abolitionistĀ and so on, then you’re insulting him. You’re saying he wasn’t enough. You’re saying who he was wasn’t enough. And I think who he was is enough. I think he was a very fine man, in many ways, and with some warts, like we all have. But I think the greatest respect you can show him is to admire him for who he really was.

Pryor wrote our own entry on Lee, which you can also find at the New York Times.

IMAGE: General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, a sketch by Thomas Nast (1895)

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