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A group of black students at Washington and Lee University is urging administrators to atone for its Confederate heritage and what they call the “dishonorable conduct” of namesake Robert E. Lee.  Washington and Lee University is located in Lexington, Va., and the black students make up about 3.5 percent of the total student population.

From The Washington Post:

Third-year law student Dominik Taylor, a descendent of slaves on his father’s side, said he felt betrayed by admissions representatives who touted the school’s diversity.

“They assured me it was a welcoming environment where everyone sticks together as a community,” Taylor said. “Then I came here and felt ostracized and alienated.”

Taylor is among a group of students who have urged the board of trustees to make the university more welcoming for minority students. Known collectively as the Committee, the students wrote a letter to the trustees with a list of “demands,” promising acts of civil disobedience if they see no action before Sept. 1.

The students want Confederate flags removed from the chapel. They also want administrators to ban Confederate reenactors and sympathizers from campus on the Lee-Jackson holiday in Virginia, and they ask that the university’s undergraduate school cancel classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Washington and Lee law school began observing the holiday in 2013, but the undergraduate students still attend classes. Although Lee-Jackson Day, the Friday before the King holiday, is not a formal holiday on campus, the school does honor Lee annually around his birthday on Founder’s Day.

In response to the student’s request,  university President Kenneth Ruscio wrote an open letter to students stating that he had asked a “special task force” to study the history of African-Americans at the school.

“While we are aware of some of that history, I believe we should have a thorough, candid examination,” Ruscio wrote.

Many feel that the students should have known before hand that the university’s history was shrouded in racism, before applying to attend.

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  • 1love

    When will we learn?
    When will we stop begging for white approval?

    • Jersey Girl

      That is NOT what this is about. I really hope you are not one of those “let-go, retreat” and find a friendly place that will be accepting of us. If we do that we run the risk of being encroached on. We should demand to be everywhere we can and want to be. Because of MY dignity and self-respect and because this is a free county, I will exercise my right to comfortably exist anywhere in it.

      And furthermore, I personally would not ever attend a school like that or send my child there but it would have nothing to do with seeking white approval or avoiding white un-approval. Instead I’d be happy if the school (VMI not necessarily W&L) were shut the heck down due to its atrocious history! Those are my two cents.

  • Jersey Girl

    Someone said it finally. THIS is appalling.

    I am a black woman whose now husband (a white guy from my hometown in another part of the country) attended the school next door to W&L-Virginia Military Institute-which is even worse in its enamoring of the confederacy. It’s a major issue in the south.

    You may ask how the hell is it ok to openly tout a movement that is so deeply wound in the most racist, evil traditions in our history? It is because schools like these attempt to be somewhat PC by conveniently forgetting the pro-slavery, pro-discrimination part of the confederate agenda and cling to how brave these rebels were in protecting their freedom and their homes. Meanwhile, there are lots of very scary very racist modern day “confederates” who brazenly wave their confederate flags around the area.

    Imagine the feeling of walking around campus to visit my then boyfriend when all around you the signs, images, statues point to the fact that if they had their way, I wouldn’t be free to walk in that very space and that I’d be picking something in a field.

    They get away with a lot down there. I’ve had more than my share of awful experiences there. But no one is as bothered by it as we black folks are. I deeply resent those policies and the school as a whole, not a cent more of my family’s money (beyond the outlandish tuition my husband is paying off) will go there.

    What W&L and VMI allow is an attempt to assault the dignity of those students, and what we claim to represent as a nation.

  • Anthony

    I am all for calling out the Confederacy as the traitors and racists they were, but the school is Washington & Lee, it’s named after Robert E. Lee. I don’t think the school will ever totally condemn its namesake although I do think the flags need to go in 2014.

  • Mary Burrell

    Those students shouldn’t hold their breath nothing will be done about this.

    • MsSmeeg

      I agree, the Whites at that institution will find excuses to justify the use of the Confederate flag. A lot of Whites just do not care about what the Confederacy means to Black people.