Can We Honor Robert E. Lee Apart from the Confederacy?

Lee University

Kevin Levin raises an interesting point.  In a recent talk a member of the audience asked him if it was possible to honor Robert E. Lee with a monument for his work as president of Washington and Lee University.

Here is a taste of Levin’s post at Civil War Memory:

One question in particular caught my attention. A graduate of Washington & Lee University asked if it was possible to commemorate Robert E. Lee today in the form of a monument that focused on his time as president of the college. Imagine Lee walking astride one or two students. Lee is in civilian clothing rather than military uniform and carrying a book. Could one be erected in 2017 on campus and if one were already present would people be justified in asking for its removal or relocation?

In other words, is it possible to commemorate Lee without acknowledging his service to the Confederacy?

I attempted to answer the question by drawing a distinction between before and after Charlottesville, but admitted that I am just not sure. What do you think?

One thought on “Can We Honor Robert E. Lee Apart from the Confederacy?

  1. It’s an intriguing question. In the end, though, I would argue that a statue is too much of an honor for such a man. A memorial plaque on a wall seems sufficient.

    He committed treason and he committed treason solely for the purpose of being able to own another human being. Being a great president of a university after the fact doesn’t rise to the level of the statue.

    The south re-fought the Civil War from 1865 to 1965 and they mostly won that battle. Lee was in many ways a part of that fight.


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