|My answer to the question|
The place of deepest humility to which to aspire is to honor our fathers and mothers, their deeds, their values, their glories, their achievements, their bravery, and to acknowledge freely as well their sins, their iniquities which have come down to us, and to walk in repentance for the sin of “me and my people” before a forgiving God (Nehemiah 9; Ezra 9; Daniel 9).
Robert E. Lee was a great American who deserves honor for his life, faith, and deeds which honored Christ. He deserves honor for brilliant military service to both the United States military and his native Virginia. Lee set his slaves free long before the War and for much of the War advocated offering freedom to any slaves who would fight for independence.
The Confederate government finally approved that measure in March 1865, too late for anyone to notice or for it to affect the war, but that decision gives weight to the argument that there was more for which the South effused the blood of thousands of white men than for some superiority complex of keeping one people under the neck of another.
The world is a complicated place. All our American hands are crimson from the blood of slavery and its subsequent iniquity.
Lincoln sold his wife’s inherited slaves instead of freeing them. He advocated the colonization of Liberia to send as many people of African heritage back to the African continent as possible because he did not believe whites and blacks could live together in peace and equality, that blacks did not have the mental and social capabilities of living in a free society.
His Emancipation Proclamation, a bald political move to pull the United Kingdom back from the brink of formally recognizing the Confederacy, guaranteed the perpetuation of slavery to any territory or state which would lay down their arms and come back into the Union. If slavery was all Lee and the South wanted, none of them took advantage of the offer. On the Union side, General, and later President, U.S. Grant retained his slaves until he was forced by the 13th Amendment to give them up.
There is a reason that slavery was not long tolerated in the North. Northern whites could not abide the presence of people of African descent. That is why the Northwest Territory had a provision that no one of African descent could own land in what is today the MidWest.
The US Army was dispatched to manhandle violent rioters in the streets of New York City when residents found out the Lincoln Administration wanted to change the direction of the War to include freeing the slaves.
The war crimes, rapes and torture of slaves, contrabanding of medicines and Bibles, and the total war strategy of making war on defenseless elderly, women, slaves, and children, that Grant, Sherman, and Lincoln prosecuted were sins of incalculable depth toward both white and black Southerners.
The politics of Reconstruction set Southern blacks and whites against one another as a strategy of the Northern victors to maintain a level of social and political control in the American South. ‘Separate but equal’ was an imposed Northern idea. The resulting post-War racism and Jim Crow codes were a direct result of that Reconstruction strategy. Southerners’ sinful resentment and bitterness about the prosecution and results of the war led to the sinful way freed blacks were treated for a century.
Slavery and virulent racism has not been just a Southern sin. It was and continues to be an American sin.