From the mailbag 02/20/12

An occasional sharing of the email I receive.

My column from two weeks ago prompted the following email, which I received yesterday:

I am responding to your column on February 8,’12 in The Virginian-Pilot that I consider a very one sided view of a very dark period in Virginian history that the victorious North euphemistically called “Reconstruction”.  A vast majority of Virginians at the time (and many Virginians today) would call it what it was: a”Northern Military Occupation” that controlled every aspect of life in Virginia. That included sending blacks to our legislature. I doubt if very many were qualified — but as I said, the occupying military authority could do anything they wanted — and they did. Being the first group of unqualified black legislators in our state’s history, basically appointed by the occupying military authority, does not amount to leaving a “rich legacy”. I grant you that it appears that Richard Paige was the exception.

Virginians should have two Independence Days. One celebrating our freedom from England; the other on January 28 celebrating our freedom from the occupying Northern Military. But sadly, this would not be politically correct; as is the Lee-Jackson Virginian holiday that is not even mentioned in our famously biased paper.

It appears to me that you are looking at a very sad, dark period of Virginian history thru a straw — a black one at that.

A couple of points here:

  • While not mentioned specifically, the op-ed I wrote was in honor of Black History month. If presenting information on the history of black legislators is one-sided, then what does that make the history that excludes references to them?
  • The research I found in writing this piece, a point I made in the article, was that most blacks were highly qualified. Take a look at the brief bios of those who are being honored in Senate Joint Resolution 13.
  • I don’t know when the troops left Virginia but reconstruction was over here in 1870, also a point I mentioned in the article. One thing I didn’t mention: a referendum to disenfranchise former Confederates was defeated, which seems at odds with the idea that the military controlled the electorate. If that were the case, wouldn’t the referendum have passed?

And we wonder why Virginia is still dealing with issues of race?


4 thoughts on “From the mailbag 02/20/12

  1. I wonder what the letter writer was thinking…since there was no other writer on the piece (I didn’t see any) the letter would rightfully be characterized as ‘one-sided’. As it is, it is an op-ed column, which really lends itself to the author’s opinions. There is also no mention of the events, even in passing, that brought about the governance by ‘military authority’. The military was forced to occupy various locations due to the treason that had taken place when the Confederacy was born.

    We don’t know that Mr. Paige was the lone exception in being “qualified” in the letter author’s words. While little evidence survives today, there were doubtless many men and women who would have been deemed as such, if the times hadn’t been what they were.

    We are not going to get very far, if we (the letter writer included) don’t stop arguing and making claims about the Civil War, which took place some 147 years ago. We have problems that are here now, that we need to pay attention to.

    1. Treason? By whom? A military officer made his oath to his State, not to the federal government. That is why Lee fought for Virginia. He believed that the Union was in the right, but he had sworn an oath to Virginia.

  2. One thing about my op-ed pieces is the notion that they are purely opinion. They aren’t. I come from the school of “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts” so I spend a lot of time researching a topic before offering my opinion on it. I don’t know what other op-ed writers do, but it is a standard I set for myself.

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