Your Views: Historical accuracy needed on Robert E. Lee

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Your Views: Historical accuracy needed on Robert E. Lee
Photo/Cody Mello-Klein
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To the editor:

I want to add a couple of relevant facts to all the coverage of the proposed renaming of Lee Street that someone who lives at some remove in Carlyle has initiated.

Alexandria already has an appropriately named street honoring the part American Indians played in colonial America, specifically in early Virginia history: Powahattan Street. It’s a lovely tree-lined street in the northeast Old Town section.

Pocahontas, the Indian maiden whom every school child has heard of, was a member of the Powahattan tribe. I believe the Jamestown settlers survived by learning to eat foods that were totally unfamiliar to Europeans, first introduced to them by members of the Powahattan tribe.

There are good reasons for homeowners on any street not to want the street name changed. Before Lee Street was renamed Lee, it was Water Street. Returning to that name would just remind everyone that it may be under water in a few decades.

Finally, whatever his sins, Robert E. Lee could not have been an anti-Semite. The treasurer of the Confederacy was a Jew. He was Judah Benjamin, a cotton broker from New Orleans. He spent the war years persuading all the great cotton planters to contribute freely as much as possible to the war effort, pointing out that their way of life would end if Lee’s army lost. Lee relied on Benjamin as much or more than any of his generals. He would have been deeply offended by either the Nazis or neo-Nazis who appeared on the scene long after Lee’s death.

It’s common for bigots to re-write history. The young man in jail in Texas awaiting trial for the mass killing of Mexican-Americans in the El Paso Walmart thought he was ridding Texas of invaders. Actually, Mexicans came to Texas first.

-Katy Cannady, Alexandria

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