Little did John Troast ’23 imagine, when he wrote a 20-page paper for Chamberlain Fellow and Visiting Professor of History Ty Seidule, that his words would be featured on the homepage of a national news site. “Charlottesville’s Lee Statue Belongs in a Museum,” a summary of the paper written for Seidule’s Monuments & Myths: Civil War course, appeared Aug. 1 on the History News Network website.
“Charlottesville’s recently removed statue of Robert E. Lee is not a statue of a man, it is a statue of a myth,” Troast’s essay begins. “From its inception, the monument has always represented a flawed vision of history born out of the Lost Cause, a revisionist approach to history that argues among other things that the Southern cause was noble and just. … it is a statue emblematic of a heritage and way of life, founded upon the principles of white racial superiority.”
Troast concludes with a solution to the question of what to do with the statue of Robert E. Lee, now that it has been removed from its place of honor. “… given the significant role [the statue] has played in one of the most important events in the modern history of American race relations, it certainly can still serve an educational purpose if this aspect of its history is properly emphasized in a different context. Perhaps the statue should find a home at the Museum of African American History and Culture?”
A history major at Hamilton, Troast is spending the summer in his hometown of Carlisle, Mass., engaged in research for a construction company. Specifically, he is exploring the history of a home where the philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau spent the last 11 years of his life and, following his passing, where author Louisa May Alcott spent many years before she died.