County’s culture is being canceled

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

In a recent “Short Rows” the Times’ publisher emeritus recalled his youthful Southern history lessons learned in Smithfield as “tripe.” That’s “pig stomach” for readers not so familiar with our county’s major industry.

Our most important Revolutionary War landmark structure, “Pierceville,” was just destroyed by someone who had, supposedly, learned his history in our local school system. And the demolition of our county’s first integrated public school, the stately Jordan House, was demolished by local entrepreneurs, one of whom actually served on our Board of Supervisors.

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One of our supervisors said several weeks ago that maybe our county should not be in the “monuments business.” Really? Well, too late, way too late!

There are many “monuments” and “memorials” that our county government has blessed in years past. Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor and Henry H. Bradby Park in Rushmere just to cite two. Are they also “tripe”?

Memorializing our historic past is indeed the “business” of government. And has been for centuries!

The “Warraskoyack Indians” historical marker on Smith’s Neck recalls our Native American heritage. Smithfield or “Smith’s Field” reminds us of generations of the slave-owning Arthur Smith family. Descendants of the Mathomank Indian Village, once in the Rushmere area, want the government to erect a marker for their ancestors.

Are all these reminders of our historic past to be “culture canceled” as mere “tripe”?

No! We must hold on to what teaches us about our storied past. Yes, even if some things “offend” like our Confederate memorial or the relocated “Schoolhouse Museum” that was torn from its original history-making location, hauled several miles and replanted falsely in town.

Was it placed right there prominently and deliberately to remind all coming into town from the “south” of our past segregationist sins? Was the motivation for its placement the same as what is said prompted the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect the soldiers memorial where it is now? Should we return the Schoolhouse Museum to its historic location? And by the way, this relocation effort was led by someone who lives in Surry County, not even here.

Iis it not unthinkable we may have to rebrand our county’s once slave-owning principal town? To what? Peanutfield? Cornfield? Or (horrors!), Tobaccofield?

And what about “Isle of Wight?” A quick check on the internet reveals the town of Cowes on our namesake Isle’s north coast was a slave trading port. So, are we left with “Isle of What”?

Maybe the Times could conduct a poll to come up with “safe space” names for all the historically named things around us. How about North Windsor Middle School instead of “Tyler” or Rushmere Park instead of “Bradby?

Or, better yet, much better yet, maybe we can all just “chill out” and agree to allow all of our commemoratively named schools, parks, buildings, monuments, etc., to remain as reminders of what we, as a community, must not forget.


Albert P. Burckard Jr.