Your View: Moving statue amounts to moving a gravestone

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Your View: Moving statue amounts to moving a gravestone
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By Katy Cannady, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
I find city council’s illadvised unanimous vote to move the “Appomattox” statue and the remarks by some city councilors during the hearing on the matter offensive.

The statue stands where it is today because that location has a connection to the dead it commemorates. In that respect, and in being superior representative art, it is like the Edmondson Sisters statue just off Duke Street opposite the Whole Foods Market.

The Edmondson sisters were young slave women who worked at the Bruin Slave Jail where the statue now stands. Freeing them became an abolitionist cause. One of the reasons given for the special efforts on their behalf was that they were good Christians whose slave master might force them to commit sinful acts.

I volunteered to work on the preparations for the inauguration of Freedmen’s Cemetery, so I learned a little about the people interred there. They were Christians buried in the Christian religion by a Union Army chaplain. As we know, Christianity stresses forgiveness as an essential virtue.

The “Appomattox” statue is basically a beautiful substitute for a grave marker for young men who left home and were never able to return. It is mournful, as benefits a tombstone. We should not rewrite epitaphs, nor should we move tombstones.

If city council truly wanted to make real and meaningful amends for injustice to African Americans and others, they could go to work trying to improve Virginia’s retrograde voter ID laws. I know that would be hard from a seat on the Alexandria City Council. Ordering the moving of a tombstone is so much easier.

I believe that all those who lived and died in turbulent times deserve to be remembered with a burial marker. At the Freedmen’s Cemetery, a wall with the names of those buried there taken from the Union chaplain’s record book substitutes for individual tombstones.

The “Appomattox” statue substitutes as a tombstone for young men who never came home. They all played a part in our history and all deserve to be remembered.

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