Letters: Discovering Chestnut Hill and removing Confederate monuments

Posted 8/5/20

Discovering Chestnut Hill

My husband and I are newcomers to Chestnut Hill and are eager

to learn all about the area. The Chestnut Hill Local is a great source of

information about our …

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Letters: Discovering Chestnut Hill and removing Confederate monuments

Posted

Discovering Chestnut Hill

My husband and I are newcomers to Chestnut Hill and are eager to learn all about the area. The Chestnut Hill Local is a great source of information about our town. We read with interest the article in last week’s Local about International Rock Day and the importance of Wissahickon Schist as a construction material for so many beautiful buildings in Chestnut Hill. So, we decided to find the former quarry locations mentioned in the article. We set out on foot walking down Germantown Avenue headed for the 7600-7700 blocks. Sure enough we saw shiny rocks behind the commercial buildings. We were not sure these were Wissahickon Schist but we convinced ourselves they were.

Next, we proceeded to the Trolley Car Diner and wished it were still open because by then we were really thirsty. Then on we walked to the Friends Skyspace on East Mermaid Lane. There were definitely the remains of sparkling rocks behind the building so we stopped to admire them and cool off. We could not get to the Woodward Rock Garden on East Cresheim Drive because there was no sidewalk and heavy traffic. But not discouraged, we hiked on to our last destination, The Residences, on Willow Grove. We saw no sign of rocks, but we discovered a restaurant that would be great for dinner take out. What a fun day thanks to the Local!

Mary and Paul Henry

Chestnut Hill

Much is being debated in our country about whether Confederate monuments should be taken down, moved to museums or be totally destroyed. I can honestly say that until recently, I’d never given the issue much thought.

Then, in the reading of the book “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson, I learned a few things that I’d like to share. Stevenson writes: “I’d always been especially interested in the Post-Reconstruction era of American history. My grandmother was the daughter of people who were enslaved. She was born in Virginia in the 1880s after federal troops had been withdrawn and a reign of violence and terror had begun, designed to deny any political or social rights for African Americans. Her father told her stories of how the recently emancipated black people were essentially re-enslaved by former Confederate officers and soldiers, who used violence, intimidation, lynching and peonage to keep African Americans subordinate and marginalized.

“Terrorist groups like the KKK cloaked themselves in the symbols of the Confederate south to intimidate and victimize thousands of black people. For a hundred years, any sign of black progress in the south could trigger a white reaction that would invariably invoke Confederate symbols and talk of resistance.

“It was in the 1950s, after racial segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education, that many southern states erected Confederate flags atop their state government buildings. Confederate monuments, memorials and imagery proliferated throughout the south during the Civil Rights era. It was during that time that the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was added as a holiday in Atlanta. Even today, banks, state offices and state institutions shut down in his honor.”

I’ve heard Rev. Al Sharpton ask the question, “How do you think we feel when we walk by monuments of people who actually owned our ancestors and treated them as less than human?’

Suppose for a moment that your great-grandmother had been victimized by a particular person. Perhaps he raped her, beat her half to death, robbed her, left her for dead, held her captive in their basement or chained her to a bed. Miraculously, she escaped with her life and found help. (There have been actual documented cases of this happening.) She worked hard to get her life together, to forget the horrible things that were done to her. She was eventually a survivor, and you learned of her awful experience with this awful person.

Then, imagine, one day when you walk outside, there in front of your building, is a statue to that very person. Imagine your distress, your dismay, your utter disbelief. “How could anyone admire this person? Don’t they know what they did to my great-grandmother?” I don’t doubt for a moment that you would fight in every way possible to have it removed. You do not want or need a reminder of that ugly, painful part of your family’s past.

African Americans don’t need a reminder of an ugly, painful part of their ancestors’ past, either.

Delores Paulk

letters

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