Recalling the watchful
gaze of iconography
I grew up at 1218 W. Franklin St., three houses east of the J.E.B. Stuart monument. In the late 1960s, I vividly remember Black students walking across Lombardy Street from the Randolph area to the still-segregated Maggie L. Walker School, years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. They trudged underneath the visage of Stuart every school day. One block west, students traveling along Allen Avenue were greeted by Robert E. Lee.
At St. Christopher's School, we had small statues of Lee and Stonewall Jackson in our Lower School classes because our literary societies were named for them. We had Confederate flags next to U.S. ones. Racism certainly was not taught (and my beloved alma mater has come a long way), but the Lost Cause narrative was very much in play.
I read countless books on the Civil War and later studied Reconstruction and the civil rights movement. The bottom line is that white people stripped Black people and other minorities of their rights for well more than 100 years after the surrender at Appomattox.
Those neighborhood Confederate icons lost any civilized meaning for me. Goodbye and good riddance. Let us embrace one another, and our future together.