TO THE EDITOR:
Your editorial in support of the renaming of Saunders Hall reminds me of the current movement to brainwash schoolchildren with the notion of “American exceptionalism.” That is, by erasing reminders of the checkered past that some enlightened folk find uncomfortable. Down the memory hole with them!
In its recent manifestations this misguided impulse can be traced to Ronald Reagan’s amiable citation of the Pilgrim Fathers’ vision of “a city on a hill,” a beacon to benighted mankind. What went unmentioned was their subsequent treatment of Indians, so-called witches, Quakers and other dissenters from their religious views.
Moreover, information concerning Colonel Saunders’ relationship with the KKK rests on hearsay, and shaky hearsay at that. So far as I am aware there is no evidence that he was a “grand dragon” of the Klan. There is little evidence, for that matter, that he was a member. He himself denied unlawful activity. But even at their worst, historically conditioned relationships, following a bloody fraternal war, do not justify historical vandalism — especially in the case of a man whose service to this university and to learning was exemplary. We should study the past, the bad with the good, not seek to repeal it; and we should do so in the recognition that we too are imperfect beings with faults of which we may not be aware.
I, for one, would welcome the due recognition of Zora Hurston, but not at the expense of memorials of this university’s rich, varied and imperfect past.