Washington and Lee president apologizes for university's connection to slavery but defends Gen. Robert E. Lee

tags: Confederate flag



In recent years, many colleges have considered their institutions' ties to slavery, and how to appropriately acknowledge that history. Such a discussion has come to a head at Washington and Lee University, where the president on Tuesday acknowledged and apologized for a history in which the university owned slaves, and announced that Confederate flags that have been on display next to a statue of Robert E. Lee will be removed.

The president's statement followed several months of sometimes divisive debate after a group of black law students demanded a series of changes at the university -- some of which are addressed in the president's letter.

Few colleges are as closely tied to a Confederate hero as is Washington and Lee. Robert E. Lee was president of what was then Washington College from 1865, shortly after he surrendered his army, until 1870, when he died. As president, he led the college to financial stability and expanded the curriculum. His ideas are credited with the eventual development of the university's honor code. Shortly after he died, the board of the college changed the name of the institution to Washington and Lee. All presidents since Lee have lived in his house.





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