BAR HARBOR—Racism in the U.S. has existed since the colonial era and has involved practices that restricted the political, personal and economic freedoms of African Americans. While racial discrimination was largely denounced by the mid-20th century, extensive evidence of racial discrimination in various sectors of modern U.S. society, including criminal justice, education, business, the economy, housing, health care and media, still exists.
Among the current overt efforts to limit the rights and opportunities of Black Americans are symbols designed to remind and frighten those citizens of the physical and psychic offenses administered to them and their forebears. Confederate flags, monuments honoring rebel leaders, and the names of several military bases honoring southern officers are now under attack.
Fred Benson, Seth Singleton and Nat Fenton will address the points of view surrounding these relics during a virtual talk with the Jesup Memorial Library on Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m.
Benson will present brief histories of how and why 10 U.S. Army installations were named for Confederate generals, and describe why some oppose removing them on historical grounds. Singleton will look at how others have tried to confront the sins and symbols of their history, and why historical ghosts are never quite laid to rest, with tales from Russia, Vietnam, China and South Africa. And Fenton will make the case that these intimidating relics must be removed from public lands. They must be removed not to hide history but to create our own history consistent with our centuries-old self-evident truth “that all Men are created equal.”
Benson has been engaged in national and international government affairs activities in the White House, the Pentagon and with Weyerhaeuser Company. He also served in the U.S. Army with responsibilities including senior positions in the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army as well as aviation and ground command assignments in Korea, Vietnam and Alaska. He was selected as a White House Fellow and subsequently served as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Singleton is professor of international relations, most recently at the University of Maine. He studied Russian history at Harvard and political science at Yale. He lived in Russia during its revolutionary upheaval in 1991 and 1992, in Tanzania shortly after its independence and in Vietnam as one of the first postwar U.S. Fulbright Scholars, in 1999-2000.
Fenton was educated in Bar Harbor elementary schools, St. Mark’s School, Bowdoin College and Cornell University Law School. He came back to Bar Harbor and practiced law from 1972 to 2019.