Charlottesville Confederate Statue Defender Sues Paper, Prof, for Reporting His Family’s Slaveholding History
Edward Dickinson Tayloe II is suing the city to save the statue behind the Unite the Right rally—and says the paper implied he is “a racist and an opponent of people of color.”
Edward Dickinson Tayloe II is the descendant of a “First Family of Virginia,” a euphemistic way of saying white, rich, socially prominent before the American Revolution and—through the Civil War—slaveholding.
The Tayloes’ legacy as one of the largest slaveowning families in the state is well-documented. Amidst nearly 30,000 historical papers donated to the Virginia Historical Society by the family itself are plantation ledgers detailing the expansion of the Tayloes’ enslaved work force over the 19th century, an evidentiary accounting of how the exploitation of free black labor allowed the family to amass wealth, land, and political power.
Facts about the Tayloe family’s slaveholding past—including the regularity with which it engaged in the heartless practice of splitting up enslaved families—appeared in a brief profile of Edward Tayloe published this March by the Charlottesville, Va., newspaper C-Ville Weekly. In response, Tayloe employed a strategy once frequently used by those of means to silence critics that’s seen a resurgence in recent years: He filed a lawsuit alleging defamation and demanding a fortune in damages.
The profile of Tayloe was a brief section in a longer article about the plaintiffs in Monument Fund v. Charlottesville, another piece of litigation in which he is involved. In March 2017, roughly one month after the Charlottesville City Council voted to take down a local Confederate monument, Tayloe and 12 other co-plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the city to prevent the marker’s removal. That statue—a grand bronze depiction of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on horseback—would gain national notoriety in August 2017 when neo-Nazis (whom President Trump later called “very fine people… there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name”) descended on Charlottesville to violently oppose its planned removal.