Manisha Sinha is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut. Her book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition received the 2017 Frederick Douglass Prize. Some of you will remember our interview with Manisha in Episode 16 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
Over at National Public Radio, Sinha weighs-in on Confederate and other monuments.
On Confederate monuments:
It always astonished me as a Civil War historian to see statues commemorating Confederate generals and politicians who had literally committed treason against this country in order to uphold human bondage.
On monuments to other historical figures:
I think it is important not to go from one extreme to the other. And while it is true that many of the Virginian Founding Fathers – Washington, Jefferson, Madison – all owned slaves, we put up their statues not to commemorate their slave holding but for different reasons. So these statues, I think, need to be contextualized historically. We shouldn’t shy from the fact that many of these men were slave owners, but we should also be able to judge each case individually. The Confederate statues have no redeeming qualities to them, but other statues certainly do.
I was really dismayed to see the statue of Grant, especially, come down because Grant was never comfortable with owning that one slave that was given to him by his father-in-law. He freed that slave. This was before he became president or even commanded the Union Army. And then he went on, in fact, to defeat the Confederacy, which was extremely important in the destruction of slavery. We should be able to discuss these historical figures and discuss what we admire about them and what we don’t admire so much.
Read the entire piece here.