Over the past few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts concerning the issue of Confederate monuments. Two of those posts dealt with the perspectives of Robert E. Lee and the descendants of a few prominent Confederates. Well, I can add one more to the list: the descendants of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.
For those of you who do not know much about Alexander Stephens (CSA), I recommend reading this biography of him on the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Of course, no reading on Alexander Stephens (CSA) would be complete without a brief view of the “Cornerstone Speech,” which he delivered in Savannah, GA on March 21, 1861. It’s a good idea to form an decent understanding of Stephens and his views before diving into the statement below. I feel like the context adds a certain gravitas to their letter.
Yesterday the AJC published a story about two brothers, Alexander and Brendan Stephens. The two brothers claim to be great, great, great grand-nephews of A. Stephens (CSA). According to them, they are the most direct descendants of A. Stephens who never had children. Please click on the link above to read the story but I’ll recycle of few of the quotes below.
The brothers stated this about the monuments in an open letter to Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assesmbly:
Confederate monuments need to come down. Put them in museums where people will learn about the context of their creation, but remove them from public spaces so that the descendants of enslaved people no longer walk beneath them at work and on campus.
… Some of our relatives may disagree with our proposal, but they instilled values in us that made it possible for us to write these words: remove the statue of Alexander H. Stephens from the U.S. Capitol. (my emphasis)
In regards to growing up in the South and hearing the stories and myths that helped form their heritage, the brothers had this to say.
We both grew up with a deep appreciation of our family history. We independently had experiences that led us to a process of unlearning the history growing up. What we were learning didn’t fit with the stories that we learned when we were children. As we became more dedicated to unraveling this myth, we learned the reality…
It is not as if we grew up idolizing the Confederacy, but it was state of cognitive dissonance…Slavery was wrong, but maybe some of the people who supported it were not so bad. We were taught to look away from it. It was a family tradition that was passed along. (my emphasis)
I really enjoy the self analysis included as well as the references to growing up under the Lost Cause fable.