Jeffery Robinson said in a lecture on Wednesday that to begin understanding the lasting legacy of the Civil War and Confederate displays today, we must turn our attention to America’s origin.
“If you have any question about how deeply the white supremacist views of those who founded our country ran, look at what’s in our Constitution,” said Robinson, founder and executive director of The Who We Are Project.
Robinson, the former deputy legal director for the ACLU, visited Boston College Law School’s Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy to deliver a community address titled “What Heritage Are You Talking About: Confederate Monuments in the United States.”
America’s attachment to Confederate iconography is a denial that slavery was the true reason for the Civil War, Robinson said.
“Were any of you taught in high school if there was more than one reason for the Civil War?” Robinson said. “Why is it that you think people don’t want you to know this?”
The bulk of Confederate monument erection took place not directly after the Civil War, but at the turn of the 20th century and amid the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ’60s, Robinson said.
“Between 1877 and 1950, over 4000 racial terror lynchings in the United States [were] documented by [the Equal Justice Initiative],” he said. “Those are the documented ones. This is what’s happening in the country at the same time as these Confederate monuments are being built.”
Robinson also said that states with greater numbers of Confederate monuments are also statistically among the highest in lynchings.
Aiming to correct inaccuracies in the history of anti-Black racism in the United States, Robinson said The Who We Are Project aims to communicate with students, teachers, parents, and the community at large with the goal of education.
“We hire Black-owned restaurants to feed everybody, and we have national and local experts talk about the history of anti-Black racism in these states,” Robinson said.
The Who We Are Project released a documentary in June titled Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.
The film is centered around a town hall lecture that Robinson delivered, with field interviews and personal anecdotes woven in to chronicle the ongoing history of racism in America.
Robinson concluded his talk by emphasizing the importance of establishing accuracy in our nation’s history, noting that the presentation he had just delivered would be illegal in several high schools across the country.
“If you don’t deny what the Civil War was about, then why do we have monumets on public land, paid for with public money, to honor people who mamed and murdered American soldiers?” Robinson said.