In response to the letter of March 30 concerning the removal of Zebulon Vance’s name from the obelisk downtown [“Remove Vance’s Name From Downtown Monument,” Xpress], it is wise to remember that he was a product of his time as we are of ours.
He was, it is true, born into a family that owned 18 slaves, but he left home for an education and lived his life as a politician and attorney. As governor during the Civil War, he fought against many of the repressive edicts of the Confederate States of America, including keeping the right of habeas corpus and leaving North Carolina the only state with a working court system during the war.
As a U.S. senator and reconstruction governor, he pushed hard for education, laying the groundwork for North Carolina (until recently) to be considered the most progressive Southern state.
In his later years, he toured with a speech named the “Scattered Nation,” which called for religious tolerance and freedom for all Americans. He was 35 when slavery ended and lived another 29 years; it hardly seems fair to summarize him as a “horrific slave owner.” Eighteen presidents, including, strangely enough, Ulysses S. Grant, owned slaves.
If we remove everything named Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc., we have a lot to do. I am all for never seeing a Confederate flag again, but we need proper context for our precedents who lived in a world so different from our own.
— Steve Woolum