Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Becky Muska, thank You for this fine letter and history lesson.  

We canceled our Memphis newspaper subscription after 35 years due to the untruthful & malicious column by Wendi Thomas.

January 14, 2013

Richard A. Boehne, President & CEO
Scripps Corporate Headquarters
312 Walnut Street 2800
Scripps Center
Cincinnati (Birthplace of sculptor Charles Niehaus), OH 45202

RE: Thomas column published in The Commercial Appeal, 1-13-2013

Dear Mr. Boehne:

We are canceling our subscription to The Commercial Appeal after 35 years. During this time, the CA has published many of my letters to the editor and I am most appreciative for the consideration shown to me.

While I do not always agree with comments made by columnists, I have occasionally learned something new from point-of-views that are far left or far right of mine. But when the comments are vulgar and malicious towards a particular race and culture, my race and culture, then I can take action to put a stop to it permanently by canceling our subscription.

Wendi Thomas wrote a very offensive column on Sunday, January 13, 2013, concerning the removal of a granite sign donated by the SCV, a non-profit organization, with permission from the park services director and installed in Forrest Park in Memphis. There were many nouns, adjectives, verbs and participles that Ms. Thomas used, some more than once, to express her opinion in her column: KKK (4), Confederate (2), Black (7), White (2), Slave (1), Terrorized (1), Reconstruction (1), Murderous (1), Torching (1), Lynching (1). I can take these same words and, unlike Ms. Thomas, use them to tell a true story that is not malicious or vulgar.

Everyone had at least one ancestor who was a slave of another person’s ancestor in world history unless you were of royal birth. My white Confederate ancestors and their family worked side by side with a black man, his wife, and their children in the fields and dairy barn on the family farm in DeSoto County, Mississippi before and after the War Between the States. It did not matter if you were black or white, if you needed food on the table, everyone had to do the work to put it there. When the sons left for Virginia to join General Robert E. Lee‘s army, father, mother and younger siblings remained behind to fend for themselves. There was no KKK at that time to protect them. After Union forces captured Memphis in 1862, the War on Civilians began with Union soldiers torching homes, stealing anything of value, and destroying everything they did not want. Southern women, children, and older men who were not fit for service in the CSA were terrorized by Union soldiers in keeping with Union General W.T. Sherman’s edict, "There is a class of people (in the South), men, women and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order." This edict did not end with the War in 1865 and was the reason for the formation of the KKK. During Reconstruction, former Confederate soldiers and their families lost their homes and farms. Anything of value became the property of carpetbaggers or Union soldiers assigned to keep white Southerners “cowed into submission by violence or threats“ to quote Ms. Thomas but definitely not in the same context. Both black and white Southern women were raped at the hands of occupying Union forces in psychological warfare. This was the reason for the formation of the KKK. When the persecution of Southerners ended, General Forrest disbanded the KKK, even though he was not its founder. 

In Missouri, my great, great, great-grandfather operated a boarding house and maintained the “poor house” down the road from his property. In 1862, a Union soldier who was on leave from the Union forces occupying Waynesville stopped at the boarding house to spend the night. My ancestor provided him with a room. Later in the evening, men sympathetic to the Confederate cause rode up to the boarding house and told my ancestor to bring the Union soldier who was staying there outside, nothing more. My ancestor did what he was told and the Union soldier left with the men. The next day, Union soldiers from Waynesville arrived at the boarding house to report that their comrade who left the boarding house with the Confederate sympathizers had been murdered. My ancestor was forcefully removed and taken several miles from his home, accused of aiding the killers, and hanged from a tree over a large spring. News of the lynching by the murderous Union soldiers reached my great, great, great-grandmother. She and several women had to row out in a boat and cut down her dead husband from the tree.

Same words, same time period in history, one story written by a black woman, one story written by a white woman. It makes no difference to me who you believe; I know my history and I make no apologies. And I did not have to use vulgar language to tell my story. Ms. Thomas’ comment that the Sons of Confederate Veterans used their “middle finger to Memphis” when they purchased a granite sign engraved with the name “Forrest Park” and installed it, at their expense, in Forrest Park with permission from the park services director; and that CAO George Little took the SCV’s “middle finger” and “stuck it where the sun don’t shine” was crude and has no place in any newspaper. Labeling Mr. Miller of the SCV organization who donated the granite sign, an effeminate or feeble person by saying Mr. Miller as a fan of General Forrest “wouldn’t take a wussy way out” by enlisting the help of attorneys is no different than using the “N” word or “C” word, and again has no place in The Commercial Appeal.

Ms. Thomas claimed that the sign was “an offense to my aesthetics” because the font used was Sans Serif which dates back to the 5th Century. Ms. Thomas could have done a better job on her homework by consulting the main library’s digital archives, Dig Memphis, where she would have learned that when the pedestal for the bronze sculpture was in the design stage, sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus advised the Forrest Monument Association that the Albrecht Durer Script font should be used for the lettering on the pedestal’s marble. However, mistakes were made in Memphis and as Mr. Niehaus worked in New York and could not be in Memphis to watch over every detail, the “COMMON BLOCK TOMBSTONE LETTERS” Olivetti font was used, much to his dismay. The SCV simply used the Sans Serif font based on park services recommendations and what is already found in Overton Park. Ms. Thomas should be grateful park services did not recommend the Algerian font style. 

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