Burying History and Judging Historical Figures by Current Standards Is Foolish

To the Editor:

Removing facts of history is as foolish as denying the importance of genes (“In Charlottesville, UVa Grapples With Its History and the Alt-Right,The Chronicle, July 30). Whatever their flaws, Jefferson and Lee are facts of history, and to judge them by current standards is fallacious presentism.  In its day, de Gobineau’s racial theory was thought as solidly scientific as climate-change theory is today. And to inflate slavery to the greatest cause of the Civil War and deflate states’ rights is ignorance. The fact is that only six percent of Southerners held slaves, yet thousands of non-slaveholders went to war against the redcoats and the Yankees.

Fallacy and ignorance aside, it’s finally anti-intellectualism not merely to deny facts of history, but also to bury them. Every high-school junior knows about Orwell’s memory hole. Shouldn’t UVa?

George Hahn
Professor of English
Towson University
Towson, Md.

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