Take 'Em Down - NOW!


Originally published in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 58, printed November 8. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2018 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post (pending). For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Phil Wilayto

Two women holding signs that read "White women reject your racist 'history'" and "A heritage of hate is nothing to celebrate".
Southern women, some in period dress, denounce the racist mythology promoted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy at its national headquarters in Richmond. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

While the United Daughters of the Confederacy were holding their annual convention in Richmond, more than 50 antiracist activists took the occasion to gather outside the organization’s national headquarters at 328 N. Boulevard to demand the UDC stop glorifying the slavery-defending Confederate States of America. 

The activists, many of them white women wearing formal hats and white gloves – a reference to UDC dress practices, came from Charlottesville and Durham, as well as Richmond. 

UDC members were scheduled to gather on Nov. 4 outside their headquarters to dedicate a flagpole and plaque, but apparently postponed the event when word got out about the protest. A counterprotest called by the pro-Confederate Virginia Flaggers did not materialize. 

More than any other organization, the UDC has been responsible for promoting the myth that the Confederacy represented a noble cause, that slavery was not the reason for the Civil War, and that slavery itself was a benign institution in which enslaved Black people happily toiled for benevolent white masters. 

The white women’s organization was founded in Nashville, Tenn., in 1894, a time when the Southern white oligarchy was reasserting its political power after the end of Reconstruction. 

While best known for its work in promoting the building of Confederate monuments throughout the South – and in most states in the country, it was the UDC’s work in policing history textbooks that had the greatest effect in spreading the organization’s distorted views. Generations of white Southerners grew up believing in the nobility of the Confederate cause, a belief system that predisposed many to defend racial oppression, including Jim Crow segregation and racist violence. 

Among those attending the protest were members of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter, the Richmond chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the National Lawyers Guild, which provided legal observers. The Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality helped with logistics and security. 

(A longer article by Lisa Provence, with video, is posted here at C-Ville Weekly.)

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