Take 'Em Down - NOW!


Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Phil Wilayto

There’s a low, wide, white, sepulture-looking building in Richmond that you’ve probably passed by many times without really noticing it. It sits at 328 North Arthur Ashe Boulevard between the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, a location that gives it an aura of respectability. 

But the truth is that this building is the headquarters of the organization that has done more to promote a false history of the slavery-defending Confederacy than any other group in the country. 

It’s the national office of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary this September. 

Founded on Sept. 10, 1894, in Nashville, Tenn., what began as a benevolent organization providing support for Confederate widows and their families soon developed into the major force promoting the Lost Cause mythology. (See box below.) 

The UDC initiated and funded many of the Confederate memorials that today litter the country, including in 1907 the massive one honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. 

The organization developed a very successful campaign to censor school textbooks that presented a truthful view of the Confederacy and taught that slavery was a major cause of the “War Between the States.” 

It founded a Children of the Confederacy affiliate that since 1898 has indoctrinated generations of white Southern youth into believing that the Confederate rebellion was a noble cause. 

And its members wrote books and glowing reviews of books extolling the virtues of the Ku Klux Klan. 

As of 2001, the UDC estimated its national membership at 20,000. Today it claims divisions in 18 states and the District of Columbia, with individual chapters in another 14 states. While disavowing connections with “hate” groups, the organization remains very active in opposing any attempts to remove the statues and other memorials honoring those who fought for slavery. 

The entry on the UDC in the Encyclopedia Virginia explains that “In the aftermath of the civil rights movement, the Daughters’ veneration of their Confederate heritage – and, by association, white supremacy – has made them the subject of controversy.” 

But not in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy and the city whose memorials to this day continue to officially venerate the Confederate figures who rebelled against the Union in order to form a new government dedicated to the preservation and extension of chatel slavery – as was clearly stated by the rebellious states when they declared their independence from the Union. 

This year the organization will celebrate its 125th anniversary with a program on Sept. 6 and 7 in Nashville, and then later will hold its 126th national conference in Atlanta. 

Here in Richmond, the Defenders along with other anti-racist organizations are calling for a vigil outside the USC offices at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8, when we will demand: “Take down all the Confederate memorials: No shrines to white supremacy!”

We invite you to join us.

Categories: Take 'Em Down - NOW!

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