In 1928 W.E.B. DuBois wrote this essay on the legacy of Robert E. Lee. I am not certain what prompted the essay, but it is a wonderful example of how African Americans pushed back against the Lost Cause throughout the postwar period. I will highlight some of my favorite passages. [Source: The Crisis, March 1928, v. 35, n. 3]
W.E.B DuBios has a very modern take on Lee. He was 50 years ahead of white historians who for many years had a Lost Cause view of Lee. Great stuff.
I was not familiar with DuBois Lee essay until now. I think he gets Lee about right. I was a little kid during the Civil War centennial (1960-1965). But I was fascinated with the War, there was a lot of popular media dealing with he War especially in television (TV was really coming into its own as the centennial started and the renewed civil rights movement was capturing the country's attention).
As I watched television programs and read accounts (including Catton for the fist time) I remember even at that age wondering how anyone could fight for slavery.
It is always a good sign when your essay is a target for frauds like the Abbeville institute. DuBois' essay on Lee is spot-on and that is why Lost Causers of the modern era consistently attack his value.
I love that Mr. DuBois does not capitalize confederate. I’ve stopped capitalizing many similar things, a small protest. And highlighting rel’s lack of moral courage is excellent. His fellow Virginian George Thomas was vilified at home for remaining at his post and honoring his oath. Perhaps that is what lee feared. As a Virginian, I find that he merely exchanged one shame for another.
“It is the punishment of the South that its Robert Lees and Jefferson Davises will always be tall, handsome and well-born. That their courage will be physical and not moral. That their leadership will be weak compliance with public opinion and never costly and unswerving revolt for justice and right.” My God, how brilliant and spot on to this day!