Letter writer: Give Vance a chance

Graphic by Lori Deaton

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


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6 thoughts on “Letter writer: Give Vance a chance

  1. bsummers

    I’m all for context. Let’s create an addition to the monument that shows the man warts and all.

    • Peter Robbins

      Maybe Vance admirers could get the ball rolling by listing the deeds or characteristics that they are willing to recognize as warts. But none of that job-interviewer “he sometimes got impatient when progress was too slow” or “he worked too hard to take vacations” fluff. They have to be real ones.

  2. Johnny

    Steve – yes, he did to a lot for state education – BUT – he was advocating for two types of education, 1. A thorough, what we would call ‘liberal arts’ education, for whites, the only ‘race’ he considered capable of running the government and society and 2. For blacks, which consisted of labor education. He also greatly benefited in the state elections from the Ku Klux Klan who suppressed african american voters and any white voters thought to be sympathetic with the african american populace. And to say “he was a product of the time” avoids the fact that many, even ex-confederates like James Longstreet, chose to abandon the ideology of white supremacy – unlike Vance – in an attempt to create a sustainable and inclusive society.

  3. While I see nothing wrong with condemning white slave owners (of 200 years ago), I would like to see some folks remember that it was blacks (chieftains and kings) in Africa that sold their fellow blacks to the Muslims slavers, first, long before they were sold to white people. And of the 12 to 20 million blacks sold in the new world, only 540,000 were purchased in the US. BY 1860, these blacks had reproduced to merely 5 million. All the others sold in the new world pretty much died from disease and misuse.
    There is plenty of blame for slavery in the US to go around.
    Here is a tidbit, in the 1600’s and 1700’s, there were more Irish slaves than black slaves. They were a lot cheaper.

    I wonder who the Irish will want reparations from.

    • boatrocker

      Attention morons who slept thorugh high school history- pay attention!
      The difference between the African slave trade and the American slave trade-

      -One could manumit one’s self from the African slave trade- meaning buy your way out of it and join a tribe as 100% free man vs 3/5 of a man.

      -African slave trade used similar languages vs one being beaten for speaking Swahili or Arabic in the New World.

      -One could also take a wife or husband of their own free will vs being forced to jump over a broom.

      -The African slave trade let one keep their own children vs them being sold to the highest bidder.

      -My favorite- African slaves looked at low class Irish immigrants who occupied the same socio economic status and coined the phrase-
      White Trash. They were right.
      Use that phrase to describe the Trump types, or the “Why don’t white lives matter?” types.

      White trash.

      White trash.

      Own it.

      It is what happened for those awful immigrants, who didn’t speak the language, undercut everyone for jobs and married your sister, bred like rats and were responsible for all the crime in your neighborhood.

      Let’s say it again for posterity-

      White trash.

      Trump should deport them back to Ireland and keep the hard working Americans here.

      White trash.

      White trash.

      White trash.

  4. Phil Williams

    Many monuments across the country honor people who were slaveholders, including the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, Grant’s Tomb – yes, Ulysses S. Grant’s Missouri in-laws still owned slaves when the Confeds surrendered at Appomattox – Slavery was not abolished until the 13th Amendment was passed on 18 December 1865 – Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the “states and parts of states in which the people thereof” were in “rebellion against the United States.”

    The Union was preserved. Slavery rightly died – even though racial injustice lived on for many years in the North as well as in the South. The blacks were not the only ones who suffered – the Native peoples probably got the worst deal of all – at the hands of the United States government – not the CSA or Zeb Vance. For the record, I do not own a Confed flag, nor have I ever displayed one on my property or person.

    The Vance Memorial was not erected to honor the fact that Vance was a slave-owning Southerner – it was commissioned and largely paid for by a New Yorker/Michigander who was one of his friends, and who recognized the importance of the many things Vance accomplished during his life. North Carolina and many of her citizens benefitted from Vance’s leadership and

    Once of Vance’s accomplishments was his successful push to get the railroad into Western NC – which sparked the beginning of Asheville’s prosperity and popularity. If this “racist fiend from the darkest depths of North Carolina’s past”, as one emotion-laden specimen of revisionism put it, hadn’t made his positive contributions to our State, region and county, Asheville could’ve gone the way of dozens of small towns all over the country.

    And just think – if it weren’t for Vance, it is possible that all of these drum-beaters would not have anything to chant and parade over – and they might constructively employ their time, energy and passion to engage real issues of today rather than to slander a man who died before most of their grandparents were born.

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