A Virginia high school freshman faced backlash over his Confederate-themed art project for which his teacher initially gave the go-ahead.
The student, William Norman, however, completed the project because it meant something exceptionally special to him: Gen. Robert E. Lee was his third cousin.
What are the details here?
Delmarva Now and WVEC-TV reported that William Norman, a student at Nandua High School in Onley, Virginia, was given the OK after presenting the Confederate-themed concept for a sculpture.
According to the outlets, the project was "a ceramic sculpture of a hand with 'Robert E. Lee, history not hate.'" The sculpture also bore a Confederate flag.
One day before the project was due, however, both the art teacher and, later, the school's principal told William that he would have to redo the project, saying it "promoted racism."
"I was going to do what I planned," William told the outlets. "They can’t approve it and then say you gotta change it after I worked so long on it. It’s not fair to me, or anybody."
After William balked, the school's principal laid down a simple directive: redo the project or fail.
(Image source: WVEC-TV video screenshot)
How did William get to present the project anyway?
William got his family involved in the debacle, and that's when things really took off.
William's father, David Norman, told the outlets that the art project was all about heritage and deep roots in the American South — and not racism.
"Robert E. Lee was a third cousin," David explained.
He told WVEC, "We were on the second ship from England that came to America, so my bloodline goes way back when America first started."
According to the outlets, the school allowed William to present and display his project, after several meetings between the family and the school.
"People that may be racist might fly it, but to me, it has nothing to do with racism," William explained. "It’s my heritage, my blood, where I came from."