The great-great grandchildren of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson have a message for those who adamantly want to preserve the Confederate leaders’ monuments: Let it go.
Their message, all issued separately in interviews and open letters, are particularly resonant in a climate when there’s so much controversy over the Civil War symbols and when the President of the United States himself said removing them is ripping apart the country.
Here’s what the family members had to say:
Gen. Robert E. Lee
Lee’s great-great grandson of Gen. Robert E. Lee condemned last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and said it might be “appropriate” for Confederate statues to be exhibited in a museum.
“Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that’s the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine,” Robert E. Lee V, 54, of Washington DC, told CNN.
“Maybe it’s appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard,” he added.
Gen. Robert E. Lee’s bronze statue in Charlottesville was at the center of violent clashes last weekend between white supremacists – who converged on a park once bearing Lee’s name to oppose a plan to remove the statue – and counterprotesters.
One counterprotester, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others were injured when
Lee, who works as an athletic director at a Virginia school, called Saturday’s incidents “senseless” and “sad” for his family.
“Those sorts of acts on Saturday, that’s just not to be tolerated,” he said. “We feel strongly that Gen. Lee would never ever stand for that sort of violence.”
“We just want people to know that the Lee family just really wants to send their best to the people in Charlottesville,” Lee added.
Bertram Hayes-Davis, great-great-grandson of the Confederate president Jefferson Davis told CNN’s Don Lemon that such statues should be moved to a museum if “that’s offensive to a large majority of the public.”
“In a public place, if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it, let’s move it. Let’s put it somewhere where historically it fits with the area around it so you can have people come to see it, who want to understand that history and that individual.”
A Jefferson Davis statue stands inside the National Statuary Hall, at the US Capitol, among other Confederate leaders including Lee.
When asked whether the Davis statue belonged there, Hayes-Davis said, “I think that they were placed there for a reason,” as he listed Davis’ various accomplishments and positions he held.
“I think you have to look at the entire individual before you make a decision whether they belong at the Capitol of the United States or not.”
Hayes-Davis said he understood why people are upset by Confederate symbols including the flag.
“The Confederate battle flag, in my estimation, has been hijacked by that group of racist individuals and should be in a museum which indicates it’s a military flag and not a flag of the Confederate States of America,” he said.
Two men who say they are the great-great grandsons of Stonewall Jackson published an open letter asking the Richmond mayor to remove Jackson’s statue – and others – from a prominent avenue in Richmond.
“The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy,” the pair wrote in a letter, first published in Slate.
“We are writing to say that we understand justice very differently from our grandfather’s grandfather, and we wish to make it clear his statue does not represent us”, the open letter read in part.
In their letter, William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian said they know there are two sides to Jackson. sHe taught Sunday school to slaves, for instance. “But we cannot ignore his decision to own slaves, his decision to go to war for the Confederacy, and, ultimately, the fact that he was a white man fighting on the side of white supremacy.”
Another part of the powerful letter read: “While we are not ashamed of our great great grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer. We are ashamed of the monument.”
CNN’s Julian Cummings, Keith Allen, AnneClaire Stapleton and Madison Park contributed to this report.