On January 30, 2020, Ben Cleary delivered the Banner Lecture, "Searching for Stonewall Jackson: A Quest for Legacy in a Divided America."
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was the embodiment of southern contradictions. He was a slaveowner who fought and died, at least in part, to perpetuate slavery, yet he founded an African American Sunday School and personally taught classes for almost a decade. For all his sternness and rigidity, Jackson was a deeply thoughtful and incredibly intelligent man. But his reputation and mythic status, then and now, was due to more than combat success. In a deeply religious age, he was revered for a piety that was far beyond the norm.
How did one man meld his religion with the institution of slavery? How did he reconcile it with the business of killing, at which he so excelled? In Searching for Stonewall Jackson, historian Ben Cleary examines not only Jackson's life, but his own, contemplating what it means to be a white southerner in the twenty-first century.
Now, as statues commemorating the Civil War are toppled and Confederate flags come down, Cleary walks the famous battlefields, following in the footsteps of his subject as he questions the legacy of Stonewall Jackson and the South's Lost Cause at a time when the contentions of politics, civil rights, and social justice are at a fever pitch.
Ben Cleary is a writer and teacher who lives in Mechanicsville, Virginia. He is the author of Searching for Stonewall Jackson: A Quest for Legacy in a Divided America.