Here’s a link courtesy of Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory.
All this was happening while I was in Virginia, and I think it takes a special talent to piss off Ed Ayers. I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen him speak on several occasions and have seen him walking the halls at the VHS. He seems like a very nice guy, but I can understand how Gov. McDonnell would annoy him. Ayers has had a brilliant career (both as an academic and administrator), which has included some great scholarship on the South and race. As the head honcho at the University of Richmond, it would’ve been disappointing had he not spoken out against what McDonnell was saying, just a few miles away on the capitol grounds. Ayers is too good a historian to let the governor whitewash (literally) the Old Dominion’s past.
To be fair to McDonnell, he did backtrack after the public outcry against the governor’s proclamation. And we probably shouldn’t have been surprised at what he said: McDonnell rode the Tea Party-inspired, anti-Obama wave into office. But given that this is the 21st century, not the late-19th, it was distressing that the governor of Virginia could be so out of touch with his adopted state’s history. Granted, McDonnell is Pennsylvania-born, with degrees from Notre dame and Boston University, but he’s mostly lived in Virginia.
Virginia law allows its governor only to serve one term. McDonnell will be gone in a few years. Maybe Ed Ayers should run?