On May 12 of this year, I testified at the Shenandoah County School Board public hearing on the need to re-rename Stonewall Jackson High School back to its original name of Stonewall Jackson High. During the testimony there was one person who stated that we need to stop naming buildings after people. That way no one would be offended was his rationale.
Many of us have also done good or even great things as well. But each of us has fallen short of the greater glory of God, and failed both God and Mankind as well. (Sorry but Mankind is the proper term here — not Person kind)
Most of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan committed what would now be considered war crimes against the South with their indiscriminate burning. Sheridan is credited with the slogan “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” (actually what he is reported to have said in 1869 was “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead”). Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. The list is far too long to mention.
Yet no one is demanding that Sheridan’s statues be torn down. Or Sherman’s. We have buildings named after Malcolm X, a racial separatist. Is anyone talking about renaming those buildings, roads or schools?
Woodrow Wilson gave us everything from extreme racism to the conditions which gave us World War II. But the fact is that Wilson was a leader in the revival of Princeton University. There is a reason that Princeton has a Woodrow Wilson Building on its campus. J. Edgar Hoover ran a corrupt FBI, but you don’t have an FBI without Hoover, so the name of the FBI building is the J. Edgar Hoover Building. People cannot be separated from all of their legacy, both bad and good.
Whether people want to hear this or not, Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign put the Shenandoah Valley on the map for millions of Americans. Stonewall also requested that his slaves be taught how to read, something which was illegal at the time. Should Stonewall be castigated for owning slaves? Absolutely! It’s a black mark on his record for eternity. But the fact is that Stonewall was an educator. He was one of the greatest military minds in American history. And he did put the Shenandoah Valley on the map for millions of Americans.
Stonewall deserves to have schools named after him. And we can’t go around changing the names of each building or street just because someone is offended. We do that, and we won’t be able to name anything.