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Several recent items in the Rappahannock News would lead readers to believe that descendants of Confederate veterans are united in their dismay over the possible removal of monuments honoring their proud ancestry.

I am a descendent (on both my maternal and paternal sides) of Confederate soldiers who were slave-owners in the Carolinas. As one example, one of my great-great grandfathers was named James Madison Olein Wannamaker. He fought under Robert E. Lee and was present at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. He was released from duty and given a pardon there. He then trekked back to his family’s plantation in Lexington, South Carolina, walking from April 14 to April 28, 1865.

This great-great grandfather was the son of David Wannamaker, who owned more than 200 acres of improved land and 9,070 acres of unimproved land in the mid 1800s in South Carolina. According to public records of the time, this land was worked by 61 enslaved men, women and children living in 12 shacks. In family lore, when Union General Sherman’s troops swept through Lexington, grabbing goods held by the Wannamakers, one ancestor hid with the family’s eight mules in a swamp for several days. Other ancestors hid in outbuildings to escape these Union troops.

Do I look upon this familial history with pride? No.

Do I long to see Confederate monuments remain sprinkled wherever I roam in the South? No.

Did my parents take me to proudly view Confederate monuments when I was a growing up? No.

Actually, my parents tried to help heal the wounds of slavery by becoming educators who stood up for integration in North Carolina in the 1950s. This stance cost my father his job as a high school principal in Tarboro, NC, where I was born. 

In summary: Let’s stop romanticizing the Confederacy and the plantation system that it upheld and get on with building a truly equitable society.

Formerly of Castleton, the writer lives in Ruckersville 


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