A beloved Revolutionary War hero is latest to come under fire in slavery debate

The frenzy that hit Confederate memorials for their ties to slavery is apparently working its way back to the American Revolution.

Confusion reigned at a recent meeting of the Cumberland County School board in Fayetteville, N.C., when Superintendent Tim Kinlaw apologized for canceling an environmental program because the mascot is a Revolutionary War hero who owned slaves.

The hero in question — the Marquis de Lafayette — is the namesake of Fayetteville. He is credited with co-writing the civil rights document the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen with Thomas Jefferson.

The Fayetteville Observer reported the Cumberland County school board might reconsider sponsoring the environmental program because historians noted Lafayette was an abolitionist who bought slaves with the intent to free them. Kinlaw told media outlets that he canceled the program because of sensitivity to issues concerning slavery.

“It appears that by trying to be sensitive to part of the community, I was insensitive to another part,” Kinlaw told the Fayetteville Observer.

Kinlaw told local media he got calls from some community members concerned that Lafayette would be offensive to some people in Fayetteville, TV station WTVI reported. He canceled the event via an email to staff.

Cumberland County Schools officials said Thursday the matter will likely be discussed at the Auxiliary Services Committee meeting in October. That meeting is expected to include all members of the school board in attendance, officials said.

Lafayette was to be the mascot of a “Flip-Tap-Stack” program on Sept. 6, to encourage school children to empty trash from their disposable cafeteria trays into trash cans and to stack the trays for disposal, reported the Associated Press. Kinlaw canceled the event Tuesday, according to reports.

News of the confusion comes at a time when activists across the country are calling for the nation to abandon memorials to historical figures who did not take a stand against slavery or other issues now viewed as unacceptable or inhumane.

It began with Confederate monuments, but has slowly spread to include other figures, including former U.S. presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and Carolina native Andrew Jackson, both slave owners.

On Tuesday, dozens of protesters on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., scaled a statue of Thomas Jefferson to shroud it with a tarp. They chanted and condemned the founding father as a racist and rapist, media outlets reported. The protesters left the statue covered and a large banner tied to its base. It read, “Black Lives Matter,” along with an expletive-laced jab at white supremacy.

In Chicago, anti-fascist protesters are demanding a monument gifted by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini be taken down. The Balbo monument in Burnham Park was given to the community in 1934 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Gen. Italo Balbo leading an armada of Italian planes on a trans-Atlantic flight from Rome to Chicago for the World’s Fair.

In Philadelphia, a statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo has come under fire. The Washington Post reported a growing group of activists, political leaders and others are calling for the statue of Rizzo to be hauled away because of his defense of the white working class and his harsh brutal treatment of blacks and gays.

Some cities, including Charleston, S.C. and Richmond, Virginia, are advocating for keeping monuments to controversial figures from history, but adding context about the era during which they lived.