‘Richmond’s Unhealed History’ reveals unsavory side of Byrd, Godwin

Harry F. Byrd statue at the Virginia Capitol Square

Harry F. Byrd statue at the Virginia Capitol Square

I’ve been reading Richmond’s Unhealed History by the Rev. Benjamin Campbell. It is a fascinating look back through the more gruesome and dirty details in the history of the settlement and development of Virginia and Richmond.

This is the kind of history you didn’t read in your grade school textbooks and I highly recommend the book.

While I’ve been reading, this happened [Richmond Times-Dispatch]:

On Dec. 10, nearly a dozen parents went before the Henrico County School Board on Thursday demanding that a public hearing be called to begin the process for renaming Harry F. Byrd Middle School because of its namesake’s efforts to preserve racial segregation. After parents finished speaking, School Board members asked Superintendent Patrick C. Kinlaw to prepare a report detailing everything that a name change would entail.

From Richmond’s Unhealed History:

“On February 24, 1956, the patriarch of Virginia’s political machine, Senator Harry F. Byrd, proclaimed what became the mantra of Virginia’s fight against racial integration of the schools: ‘If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order…I think that in time the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South.'”

Why stop with Byrd? What about Mills E. Godwin, honored by the county with a high school in his name?

By that association, if Henrico County residents want to remove Byrd’s name from a school, shouldn’t Godwin face same scrutiny? Why stop with these two?

I’m not in favor of wiping out history. I don’t think we need to go to the extent that we rename Jefferson Davis highway, Lee-Davis high school or any of the other schools, properties, roadways, etc. The costs behind renaming would be prohibitive. But more importantly. history doesn’t judge, it only reminds us what happened. It is up to us to not forget.

That said, the efforts made by Byrd and his political machine during Massive Resistance were as repulsive and damaging to society as slavery, in my opinion. I’ll continue to read more on Virginia’s history, including what the textbooks conveniently left out.

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