Ever since the deadly white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, there have been efforts to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that served as a rallying point for neo-Nazi groups, as well as a separate monument to “Stonewall” Jackson — efforts so far defeated by state laws prohibiting that any memorials to war figures be taken down.
One of the most prominent local defenders of the statues, who has signed on to multiple lawsuits to keep them in place, is Edward Dickinson Tayloe III. “Both monuments are memorials of the War Between the States,” said a complaint filed by Tayloe and a dozen other plaintiffs, “and to veterans of that War.”
Now, according to The Daily Beast, Tayloe has filed a new lawsuit — against the local newspaper C-Ville Weekly, for reporting that he is descended from a prominent family of slaveowners.
Specifically, the paper reported that the Tayloes, as one of the “first families of Virginia,” were particularly cruel slave-drivers, and that they frequently engaged in family separation as a tactic of breaking the will of “rebellious” enslaved persons.
The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned Tayloe’s defamation suit accusing him of trying to stifle political speech. “It is intended to send a clear message to others who wish to opine on matters of public concern in which Plaintiff is involved,” wrote the ACLU. “Disagree or critique Plaintiff Tayloe, then you, too, will face the threat of a lawsuit.”
In reality, nearly all Confederate monuments in the South were enacted decades after the war, during periods of political strife over race, as a symbol of white dominance over society. And few things drive home that point better than the new lawsuit Tayloe has filed.