Among the many edifices that have been targeted for destruction is the Jefferson Memorial. Modern-day vandals such as Al Sharpton note that the writer of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves and therefore the memorial must be expunged. However, the Washington Examiner notes that the Trust for the National Mall in Washington has hit upon a solution that should be widely adopted.

New exhibit to highlight Jefferson’s status as a slaveholder

The Trust that cares for various monuments and memorials in the National Mall will create an Exhibit that will note Thomas Jefferson’s record as an owner of slaves.

The solution is a brilliant one in that it does not banish Jefferson, who is rightly known a founding father, to the outer darkness for his singular sin. Instead, the new exhibit helps to tell the whole story of a singularly complex but still great man. To be sure, this will not satisfy the people who think Jefferson’s story begins and ends with slavery -- but then, nothing will.

How the Jefferson Memorial solution might work

Lets suppose a statue to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee (and there seem to be a lot of them) has been targeted for destruction. Instead of tearing the statue down, a plaque would be added that explains Lee’s historical significance. The plaque would cover Lee as having betrayed the Union, his command of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the reasons he did those things.

But it would also touch on Lee’s heroics in the Mexican War, his tenure as superintendent of West Point, and his efforts to heal the nation after he surrendered at Appomattox. It might even, irony of ironies, include that quote of his that a lot of people are trotting out about Lee’s opposition to war memorials.

This solution would tie into Condi Rice’s idea of using the monuments as teaching tools.

Teachers can take their students on walking tours of the area where these edifices are located and discuss their significance. Something that many people regard as a negative will be turned into a positive.

Of course, the wording of these plaques should be undertaken by committees of historians and not be activists. One of the great truisms of understanding history is that usually, three versions exist for any particular event: the version one side said happened, the version that the other side said happened, and what really happened.

Not everyone is going to be satisfied with the end product, but the task should be left in the hands of people who do not have an emotional attachment to how history is remembered.

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