Perspective matters. I was taught the Virginia Two-Step dancing as two steps forward, one step backward. Nevertheless, a coworker friend reminds that, from her perspective, it is two steps backward, one step forward. It is the same dance from different perspectives.
On March 3 of this year, I attended a celebration of Liberation and Freedom Day at the UVa Rotunda Dome Room. This celebration marked the date in 1865 when Union troops entered Charlottesville. Some local residents joined the thousands of formerly enslaved Virginians in following those troops out of town. Meanwhile, that same day, I photographed a historical marker along Route 250 in Charlottesville. This marker recognized this same date in 1865 as the “Union Occupation of Charlottesville.” Was this liberation or occupation?
For anyone claiming this war was not about slavery and liberation, here is an inconvenient truth: the constitution of the Confederate States of America made slavery permanent. No amendments to outlaw slavery could be made to its constitution, and to end slavery would be unconstitutional.
In the Greene County Record of May 23, 2019, a letter stated that Confederate soldiers were fighting for freedom. Surely the letter writer did not mean the freedom of enslaved Virginians. What freedom, then? The freedom for some farmers to own enslaved people? The freedom to buy and to sell humans? The freedom to count humans as property and to increase the weight of each property owner’s vote by 3/5th of a person for each slave he owned?
Again, perspective matters. From whose perspective shall we view our history? I am guided by my religious beliefs, and perhaps you are, as well. Jesus asks us to keep in mind those without power or “the least of these” in our midst. Even if our ancestors fought and died to maintain a certain way of life for the Confederacy, we can realize that way of life had a dark side. And we can realize that what was in the balance of the Civil War was the basic freedom of enslaved people.