SLRC Update – 6-23-2010

The Southern Legal Resource Center
eU P D A T E
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Published electronically by the Southern Legal Resource Center
P.O. Box 1235
Black Mountain, NC 28711


(Ed. Note:  In March, the SLRC announced that it would be assisting several concerned Harvard alumni in investigating why there is no on-campus memorial to Harvard’s 71 alumni who died fighting for the Confederacy, although the University’s Union dead are impressively memorialized along with its dead of all other wars, including a couple of foreign alumni who subsequently returned to their homelands and fought against the United States (see below).  This effort has since morphed into a full-scale project, spearheaded by the SLRC, to raise public awareness of this situation and to attempt, with the help of all Southerners and especially those who are Harvard alumni themselves, to obtain recognition for the Harvard Confederate dead.  Following is a brief report on where matters stand at the moment.

The idea of a possible Confederate memorial at Harvard was floated by some alumni and sympathetic faculty as early as 1988, but was shelved after being vigorously opposed by the Harvard Black Students’ Association, Harvard’s daily newspaper, the Crimson, and ultimately the then-President of the University.  Interestingly, Harvard’s two principal Ivy League rivals, Yale and Princeton, have on-campus memorials to their Confederate dead.)


WASHINGTON – On June 1, the day after Memorial Day, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs appeared for what he no doubt expected would be a routine White House press corps briefing.  And so it was until Les Kinsolving, talk show host, World News Daily White House Correspondent and third-ranking member among White House Beat reporters, raised his hand and announced he had “a two-part question” relating to Memorial Day observances. 

Kinsolving began, “As a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, the President has never protested – “

Gibbs immediately interrupted.  “He didn’t graduate from Harvard, Lester. He graduated from Harvard Law School, but he graduated from Columbia undergrad," Gibbs stated.

“I’m sorry; I correct that.  Thank you very much,” said Kinsolving.  Then he resumed, “The president has never protested the memorials to Harvard’s war dead in World War I and II, which include the names of Harvard alumni designated as ‘enemy’ because they were soldiers of the Kaiser and of the Fuhrer. Has he – he’s never protested that, has he?"

"I honestly don’t have – I don’t have any knowledge," Gibbs said.

Then Kinsolving threw the bomb.

"Does the president believe it is right for Harvard to have memorials mentioning these three German enemies, but no memorial at all to 71 Harvard alumni who died in the Confederate army?" he asked.

Gibbs uttered the single word “Wow” and abruptly left the room.


The Rev. Peter J. Gomes is a leading biblical scholar and rector of Harvard’s Memorial Church, a position which carries with it a considerable amount of on-campus clout.  He is of Cape Verdean parentage and his ethnicity is part Portugese, part West African.  So he engendered surprise in some quarters at Harvard and anger in others when he put himself on record as favoring recognition of Harvard’s Confederate dead.

Harvard’s Union dead are memorialized on tablets that adorn the walls of Memorial Church.  Gomes proposed taking the opportunity of 1995 renovations to the church to erect similar monuments to the Confederate dead.  (Approximately one in three Harvard alumni who were Civil War casualties wore gray.)

When the Confederate memorial idea was subsequently shouted down, Gomes remarked he hoped for the day when Harvard would be “secure enough in its shared ideals” to support a Confederate memorial.

Accordingly, in April of this year, SLRC Executive Director Roger McCredie sent Gomes a personal letter asking whether the Rector would be willing, based on his endorsement of 15 years ago, to assist in a renewed Confederate memorial effort.  To date, Gomes has not replied.

McCredie noted that Gomes had been a lifelong Republican – he had led prayers at the inaugurations of both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush – but that in 2006, nine years after his pro-Confederate remarks, he had switched parties and become a Democrat in order to support the campaign of Deval Patrick, the first Black Governor of Massachusetts.  In 2008, two years after Gomes’ party switch, Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates – of White House “Beer Summit” fame – spotlighted Gomes in a documentary Gates produced for PBS.

“Whether all that signals a change in Dr. Gomes’ outlook since 1995 is uncertain,” McCredie said.  “It may be that we haven’t heard from him because he’s simply been busy.  If he is willing to help us in our efforts, we’ll be appreciative.  If he’s not, he’s not.”

McCredie’s letter to Gomes is reprinted below.


April 23, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Peter J. Gomes
The Memorial Church
One Harvard Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138-6500

RE:  Honoring Harvard’s Confederate Dead

Dear Dr. Gomes:

The Southern Legal Resource Center recently agreed to be of whatever assistance we could to several Harvard alumni seeking to revisit the issue of an on-campus memorial for Harvard men who died in the service of the Confederacy.  During our initial research, we learned of your compassionate and courageous advocacy of this project when it was first proposed in the mid-1990’s.  When the idea was shelved following vigorous objections led by the Black Law Students’ Association and the undergraduate Black Students’ Association, you were quoted as saying you hoped that, in the near future, “Harvard will be secure enough in its shared ideals to sustain a memorial to those of its sons who remind us of painful past divisions.” We are writing to inquire whether, if the idea of memorializing Harvard’s Confederate dead were to be reintroduced, either through the alumni association or from some other appropriate quarter, you would be willing once again to support it.

In the 15 years since a Confederate memorial was last proposed at Harvard, the  demonization of anything Confederate has hardened from an attitude into an agenda, spearheaded by opportunistic politicians, self-serving special interest groups, a hostile and cynical communications industry, and, apparently, the nation’s entire academic edifice.  Now we are on the cusp of the sesquicentennial observance of America’s most tragic war, and if the initial rhetoric is any indication, what ought to be a time for collective remembrance and solemn reflection will instead be a shallow and hypocritical morality play, with the South as slaveholding traitors and the North as noble liberators.  Deviation from this official party line will be viewed with suspicion or even opprobrium.  Please know, therefore, that in asking you to re-endorse this project (in whatever manner you may deem appropriate) we are acutely aware that we are asking you to risk exposure to this same sort of disapproval and its possible consequences. We would not presume to approach you if we did not believe your integrity and sense of fairness would override any such consideration.

As for us, The Southern Legal Resource Center is undertaking a public awareness program, the Harvard Confederate Memorial Initiative, which  involves circulating background information about the memorial issue through our newsletter and our Internet outlets.  We also plan to contact certain local Harvard alumni chapters, urging members to support our Initiative individually, as well as by and through the Harvard Alumni Association at large.   We do not postulate the form or location of a Confederate memorial; that, of course, is Harvard’s business (although the 1995 suggestion of tablets similar to the Union ones in Memorial Church certainly has symmetry in its favor).

As Harvard’s late Professor Emeritus Mason Hammond wrote in 1988, “Harvard’s dead on the Confederate side gave their lives for a cause in which they selflessly believed.”   Their concept of “Veritas” may not have jibed with that of their Union counterparts, but they acted on it in good faith and paid a soldier’s price for doing so.  As Yeats put it, “We know their dream enough/to know they dreamed, and are dead.”   Harvard could go a long way towards healing some long-held bitterness by giving its Confederate dead equal recognition.  They deserve no less.  We ask no more.

Yours very truly,

Roger W. McCredie
Executive Director 



The Harvard Confederate Memorial Initiative (HCMI) is the name the SLRC has given to the project it has undertaken (see “Ed. Note”, above) to raise support among Harvard alumni, undergraduates, parents, friends and the general public for the installation of a non-campus memorial to Harvard’s Confederate dead. Contacting and working with members of this projected core support source will, of course, require funding since the chronically strapped SLRC is in no position to undertake such a public relations campaign out of its own shallow pockets.

We have designed a full-color logo for the HCMI, which we hope will find use as the unifying campaign symbol.  (You’ll find it on the SLRC website ( ). We hope it will be picked up and displayed by those with Harvard connections, including alumni chapters and individuals, who commit to supporting  a memorial to Harvard’s Confederate fallen. We will also be making HCMI  lapel pins and blazer badges available as thank-you premiums for those who want to donate a portion of a contribution to the SLRC to help fund the HCMI, or to make a contribution entirely to the HCMI itself.  Please watch our website, our Facebook page and our eUpdates for details.


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