VIRGINIA: Washington and Lee to Remove Confederate Flag

LEXINGTON, Va. — Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., has agreed to remove replicas of Confederate flags several months after 12 black law students demanded their removal from campus.

The flags in the university’s Lee Chapel were replicas of original Confederate flags that were returned to the Museum of the Confederacy in 1993 because they were deteriorating.

Battle Flag No. 356 is among the flags displayed at Washington and Lee University's Lee Chapel. (American Civil War Museum)

Battle Flag No. 356 is among the flags displayed at Washington and Lee University’s Lee Chapel. (American Civil War Museum)

The replica flags were displayed behind a statue of Robert E. Lee on the stage of Lee Chapel. Original Confederate flags, on loan from the American Civil War Museum, will now be displayed on the bottom floor of the chapel, which houses the Lee Chapel Museum.

“I’m excited about the progress we were able to create on campus,” said Brandon Hicks, a member of the 12-student group called the Committee. The group views the Confederate flag as a symbol of oppression. Hicks said some classmates were initially shocked by the demand, which included a threat of civil disobedience if their requests were not met by Sept. 1. But “the administration and law school has been really helpful about facilitating conversation about inclusivity on campus,” Hicks said.

Among other demands, the students asked the school to apologize for its role in slavery and to condemn Civil War general and school namesake Robert E. Lee’s role in slavery.

But President Kenneth P. Ruscio said in a statement that “Lee was an imperfect individual living in imperfect times.” The president said he still personally took “pride in his significant accomplishments here and will not apologize for the crucial role he played in shaping this institution.” The school also acknowledged its involvement with slavery until 1852 and is working on learning more about the role of African Americans at the university.

An editorial in the Spectator, a conservative student publication, criticized the Committee’s demands and said it was “ludicrous to assume that the university’s display of Confederate flags in Lee Chapel indicates institutional support for slavery or racism.”

But some students found the way the school handled the complaints encouraging: “It’s difficult for the university to balance its controversial past with an eye on the future,” said Hernandez Stroud, a third-year law student at the school who wasn’t part of the 12-member group.

“People don’t change for institutions, institutions change for people,” Stroud said.

–Los Angeles Times


 PENNSYLVANIA: Chambersburg to Burn Again in Memorial

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — General Robert E. Lee is going to retire next year.

Perhaps more accurately, a man who has portrayed the famous leader of Confederate military forces during the American Civil War is planning to hang up his scabbard.

Allan K. Stone of Hinton, West Virginia, said he will step down from portraying General Lee the warrior, if not necessarily the Lee persona, after the reenactment of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox next April 9. It’s just time, he said.

An unknown photographer caught Al Stone, portraying General Robert E. Lee, with a tear in his eye. Lee once said, "My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men." (Photo courtesy of Al Stone)

An unknown photographer caught Al Stone, portraying General Robert E. Lee, with a tear in his eye. Lee once said, “My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.” (Photo courtesy of Al Stone)

Before calling it quits, though, Stone will appear in Chambersburg one last time July 19 to observe the 150th anniversary of the burning of Chambersburg on Memorial Square. His talk will be one of several activities prior to the 9 p.m. ‘burning’ of the courthouse.

Stone and his wife “have been doing this for 20 years, and we’re both 70 now,” Stone said in an interview in late June from his home. “I would kind of like to kick back now.”

He said being a living historian absorbs anybody who does it, but it is exhausting. You reach the point where you can’t do any more. “We have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren” to spend time with. “After Appomattox, we will probably sell our properties here and move back to Florida.”

Even so, Stone does not plan to drop the Lee persona. He said he is in too deep. The general is too much a part of him.

“About six months after Appomattox, Lee became president of Washington University (Now Washington & Lee). He devoted the last years of his life to training young men what to do with their lives. So, I plan to spend four or five years going around teaching people about the constitutional issues that led to the Civil War.”

Stone said he spends his Sundays working on a book about his life portraying the famous Southern leader.

“It starts with my early life growing up in upper New York State,” he said. “In 1965, we moved to Lynchburg, Va. It was 100 years after the surrender.”

He said if you ask someone to name two figures from the American Civil War, they usually reply Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln.

“People tend to think of them as the principal players,” he said. “They think that Lincoln did everything he could to defend the Union, and they think of Lee gallantly trying to earn independence for his country.”

Stone said the South in popular belief was all about grandeur, “You picture the southern ladies with their hoop skirts in carriages riding around under spreading chestnut trees and Spanish moss; Lee was the epitome of the gentleman and the leader.”

Stone was less kind to Lincoln, who, he said, started the war to protect the wealth coming into the government from the southern states. Stone said 80 percent of the money coming into the treasury arose in the South. That, he said, was what Lincoln wanted to protect.

He agreed that his view may not be one commonly held in the history books, but the North won the war. “To the victors go the spoils,” Stone said. “And they also get to write the history books.”

He said he always felt a certain kinship with the South.

“They have a certain philosophy, that the south-land was special. Other countries are nations … the South is a place,” he said.

Stone said he had had people tell him that with a beard he bore a similarity to Lee. At Civil War events re-enactors began to salute him. But at suggestions that he begin to portray the general himself, he balked.

A profile image of Al Stone as General Robert E. Lee, taken at Stratford Hall (Lee's birthplace). (Photo courtesy of Al Stone)

A profile image of Al Stone as General Robert E. Lee, taken at Stratford Hall (Lee’s birthplace). (Photo courtesy of Al Stone)

“That’s like portraying God, you don’t do that,” he said.

In his travels, he realized that other people were doing it, and decided to give it a shot.

He studied and practiced from 1990 to 1995 and gave his first impression.

In 1996, he retired from his “day job” and threw himself into the role.

“Now I do 20 to 25 reenactments, a year, 100 presentations like I do in Chambersburg, and I’ve been in a few movies,” he said.

He said he has had a wonderful time portraying Lee.

“You’ve got to know that person backwards and forwards. It’s … something you never stopped studying for; you focus on the generals he worked with, you work with what was going through his mind…”

He said he can jump into character in an instant.

“When you put on the clothes, you’re right there in the 1860s. You study your character so well, it becomes ingrained,” he said.

–Public Opinion Lifestyle