This is going to be a very time consuming read. It is of the utmost importance to understand the role the United Daughters of the Confederacy play in all of this.
They are, for the most part, responsible for the statues that you see coming down right now. It was their sole purpose as an organization to keep the Confederacy alive. But this seemingly mild-mannered, group imposed their view of the world on us, through monuments, and even more importantly, through text books!! Their sanitized version of history was what we learned growing up. No wonder many of you are crying “foul” right now. No wonder many of you are believing that we are trying to “change” history when this history, changed by them , is all you know!!
This post is quite long because I felt the need to show you the writings of several scholars and historians. If I showed you just one thing, you would probably say it is that one person’s opinion. This is not an opinion. These are the facts. Contrary to what someone accused me of, I do not HATE my country just because I am questioning what I have been told in the past!!! New discoveries are made all the time because people question the status quo. The information contained in the following passages are vital to understanding how these beliefs became engrained in our minds from childhood.
History is Not There to be Liked: On Historical Memory, Real and Fake
Historians have the uncomfortable role of shattering people’s memories.
The phrase “both sides” should ring familiar to us now. It is a defensive phrase, one used, perhaps, by a teacher breaking up a schoolyard fight and, in trying to spare one child from being blamed and growing upset, blames both. But history is upsetting. Feelings do get hurt. The past reveals many cruel and ugly things about ourselves and our ancestors that we may not wish to know. When an emerging consensus unsettles what we know and feel with certainty, we may revert to “both sides.” There are always victims on both sides.
Many individuals living in the southern United States today have learned about the Civil War and the Confederacy from the side of victimhood. They did not live through the war, but they have inherited memories of it from their communities, from books and movies, or from elementary school. They have memories of Confederate flags in their homes and dorm rooms. They remember seeing Confederate flags on flagpoles, outside churches, and on state buildings. They remember seeing (and still do,) memorials to Confederate soldiers on streets and in public spaces. These memories as children built identities as adults. The Confederacy was not associated with slavery; it was associated with home. How dare anyone say differently?
Yet, another side of America understands Confederate iconography to be symbols of dark times in the American past. Though none of these Americans grew up during the period of slavery, and fewer and fewer actively remember segregation, the monuments remind us that these institutions were real. It is a fact that starting in 1619 people from Africa were brought to the United States to be slave laborers. It is a fact that these hundreds of thousands of people were not afforded the same rights as their owners. It is a fact that millions of human beings lived and died, often brutally, being owned by another human being. It is a fact that the enslaved did not possess an ability to live a life of their own choosing or pass a free life onto their children. It is a fact that this contradiction between the aspirational ideas of equality that founded the United States and the reality that kept certain men and women enslaved was a source of friction since our nation’s beginning. It is a fact that by 1860 the tension had grown so volatile that half of the nation seceded from the other, and a war was fought to determine whether it would reunite or be permanently separated. At best, Confederate memorials are nostalgia for a period when to see one class of citizens as inferior to another was a legitimate foundation for a new country. At worst, they are aspirations to return to those times.
How Southern Socialites Rewrote Civil War History
The United Daughters of the Confederacy altered the South’s memory of the Civil War.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, a women’s group that was formed in 1894, led the effort to revise Confederate history at the turn of the 20th century. That effort has a name: the Lost Cause. It was a campaign to portray Confederate leaders and soldiers as heroic, and it targeted the minds and identities of children growing up in the South so they would develop a personal attachment to the Confederate cause. Even without the right to vote, the group was extremely influential. They lobbied local governments to erect memorials to the Confederacy all over the South, including in prominent public spaces like courthouses and state capitols. They formed textbook committees and pressured school boards to ban books that the UDC deemed “unjust to the South,” which was anything that shed negative light on the Confederacy. Their work with children went beyond the classroom as well. They formed an auxiliary group called the Children of the Confederacy, a program that sought to get kids actively involved in “Southern” history. They would recite UDC-sponsored rhetoric, visit veterans, participate in monument unveilings, and more.
Watch the video (click below) to learn more about the UDC’s efforts to present their distorted version of history as “real history.”
The lost cause’: the women’s group fighting for Confederate monuments
[ the guardian.com ]
Members of the south’s most prominent families, the Daughters dedicated themselves to telling what they considered “a truthful history” of the war. So adept were they at raising funds through bazaars and bake sales that when the United Confederate Veterans had trouble funding a memorial to Jefferson Davis in Richmond, the Daughters took over the project. The SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center; an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. They monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the U.S. and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media, etc.] attributes some 450 monuments, markers, buildings and other commemoratives to UDC efforts. The memorials range from modest statues like Silent Sam to the soaring 351ft concrete obelisk marking the Kentucky birthplace of Davis, the Confederacy’s only president. The vast majority were erected during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – when states were enacting Jim Crow laws meant to disenfranchise blacks – and amid the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
But the Daughters’ influence extended beyond the regional boundaries of the Confederacy. Until last August, when it was dismantled, there was a Confederate memorial fountain in Helena, Montana. A UDC-funded marker also stood on Georges Island in Boston Harbor, until the Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, a Republican, called for its removal. Both are now in storage. In its heyday around the first world war, the UDC was about 100,000 strong, but in a 2000 speech, the then president general June Murray Wells estimated there were around 25,000 members across 700 chapters in 32 states.
While the memorials draw attention, Karen L Cox [author of Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture] says the UDC is most proud of the “living monuments” it helped to create. She’s referring to the group’s youth auxiliary: the Children of the Confederacy, organized in 1896. Boys and girls go on field trips to historic sites and clean up cemeteries. They also memorize passages from the UDC’s Confederate Catechism, a summary of its principles. The war, reads a text from 1904, was caused by the “disregard, on the part of the States of the North, for the rights of the southern or slave-holding states”. And slaves “were faithful and devoted and were always ready and willing to serve them”. The language has been tweaked over the years. In the version currently promoted on the UDC website, that last statement now reads: “Slaves, for the most part, were faithful and devoted. Most slaves were usually ready and willing to serve their masters.”
How Dixie’s History Got Whitewashed
The United Daughters of the Confederacy were once a powerful force in public education across the South, right down to rewriting history: slaves were happy, y’all.
Updated Jul. 12, 2017
Published Aug. 19, 2016
Earlier this week Vanderbilt University announced that it would remove the word “Confederate” from the stone pediment at the entrance to a campus dormitory known as Memorial Hall. The decision brings to a close a long-standing dispute between the university and the Tennessee division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which provided the funds for the construction of the building and claimed naming rights in 1933. As part of the agreement, the school will pay the UDC $1.2 million or the present value of their initial $50,000 donation. This decision is the latest in a string of high-profile moves to remove Confederate iconography from public and private places as well as a reflection of the UDC’s long decline.
The women who founded the UDC in 1894 were committed to preserving and defending the memory of Confederate soldiers and their cause. By World War I, membership in the UDC had reached roughly 100,000. While chapters were eventually established throughout the country, they remained most influential in the South, where they organized Decoration Day ceremonies, monument dedications, and raised money to support veterans in their old age. Their most important function, however, was the overseeing of how history was taught to the next generation on the high school and college levels. Students were expected to assume the responsibility of defending their ancestors once the generation that lived through the war had died. They did this primarily by authorizing textbooks for classroom use and rejecting those they deemed to be a threat to the memory of the Confederate soldier. The UDC promoted histories that celebrated the Confederate cause by praising leaders like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and ignoring or re-interpreting the central cause of the war, namely slavery. Consider Susan Pendleton Lee’s 1895 textbook, A School History of the United States, in which she declared that although abolitionists had declared slavery to be a “moral wrong,” most Southerners believed that “the evils connected with it were less than those of any other system of labor.” “Hundreds of thousands of African savages,” according to the author, “had been Christianized under its influence—the kindest relations existed between the slaves and their owners.” It should come as no surprise that in her account of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan was necessary “for protection against . . . outrages committed by misguided negroes.”
By the first decade of the 20th century and with the encouragement of the UDC, most Southern states established textbook commissions to oversee and recommend books for all public schools that provided a “fair and impartial” interpretation. These committees worked diligently to challenge publishers who stood to threaten the South’s preferred story of the war: “Southern schools and Southern teachers have prepared books which Southern children may read without insult or traduction (defamation) of their fathers. Printing presses all over the Southland—and all over the Northland—are sending forth by thousands ones which tell the true character of the heroic struggle. The influence . . . of the South forbid[s] longer the perversion of truth and falsification of history.”
Perhaps the best example of the oversight exercised by the UDC was through the efforts of Mildred L. Rutherford of Georgia, who served as the organization’s “Historian General.” In 1919 Rutherford published A Measuring Rod to Test Text Books and Reference Books in Schools, Colleges, and Libraries. The book was recommended for “all authorities charged with the selection of text-books for colleges, schools, and all scholastic institutions” and recommended that “all library authorities in the southern States mark all books in their collections which do not come up to the same measure, on the title page thereof, ‘Unjust to the South.’” Rutherford’s recommendations included rejecting books that spoke of the Constitution as anything other than as a compact between sovereign states. Textbooks were also rejected that did not clearly outline the interferences with the rights guaranteed to the South by the Constitution, which it was believed led directly to secession. Any book that suggested that the Confederacy fought to protect slavery was rejected. This also held for any book that characterized slaveholders of the South as cruel and unjust to their chattel. Finally, Abraham Lincoln was not to be glorified nor Jefferson Davis vilified.
In response to some of the most egregious violations having to do with the history of slavery, Rutherford offered a number of corrections. She suggested that “Southern men were anxious for the slaves to be free. They were studying earnestly the problem of freedom, when Northern fanatical Abolitionists took matters into their own hands.” And in a claim that is still today widely repeated, Rutherford argued that, “Gen. Lee freed his slaves before the war began and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant did not free his until the war ended.”
The effort made by the UDC to control history textbooks paid off immeasurably and continued to shape how Americans remembered the Civil War well into the 20th century. As late as the ’70s, the state of Virginia still used the popular textbook Virginia: History, Government, Geography by Francis B. Simkins, Spotswood H. Jones, and Sidman P. Poole, first published in 1957. Its chapter on slavery—“How the Negroes Lived under Slavery”—featured a well-dressed African-American family on board a ship shaking hands with a white man, who is presumed to be the family’s new owner. Here is how it describes slavery:
A feeling of strong affection existed between masters and slaves in a majority of Virginia homes . . . The house servants became almost as much a part of the planter’s family circle as its white members . . . The Negroes were always present at family weddings. They were allowed to look on at dances and other entertainments . . . A strong tie existed between slave and master because each was dependent on the other … The slave system demanded that the master care for the slave in childhood, in sickness, and in old age. The regard that master and slaves had for each other made plantation life happy and prosperous. Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those for whom they worked . . . But they were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. In fact, they paid little attention to these arguments.
It is unclear what the UDC will do with the $1.2 million payment, but one thing is certain and that is they will not be able to use it to push the agenda of their forebears. Their preferred historical narrative has been largely discredited over the past few decades and the organization itself is now largely ceremonial.
In the wake of Vanderbilt’s decision, some have expressed concern that in changing the name of the building the university is “erasing history.” Such claims are ironic given the UDC’s efforts to control and distort (for their own self-serving purposes) the teaching of history that takes place on high school and college campuses every day across the country.
Kevin M. Levin is a historian and educator based in Boston. He is the author of Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (2012) and is currently at work on Searching For Black Confederate Soldiers: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.
This next article was quite long in itself, so I am only referring to a few passages. If you have more interest, feel free to look it up and read in its entirety.
TWISTED SOURCES: How Confederate propaganda ended up in the South’s schoolbooks
Where does it come from, the ignorance that has been on display of late? In the college-age photos of white men, now elected officials, in blackface? In the simulated Klan lynchings for yearbook laughs? In mischaracterizations of black slaves as “indentured servants?” In the denials that slavery was the central cause of the Civil War?
One answer is: from the 69,706,756. That’s how many students were enrolled in the South’s public elementary and secondary schools between 1889, when the government began counting students, and 1969, the height of the segregationist Jim Crow era, according to the U.S. Department of Education statistics. There they were subjected to the alternative reality of the Lost Cause, a false version of U.S. history developed in response to Reconstruction that minimizes slavery’s central role in the Civil War, promotes the Confederacy’s aim as a heroic one, glorifies the Ku Klux Klan, and portrays the white South as the victim.
The poisonous Lost Cause lessons were taught to multiple generations of Southerners to uphold institutionalized white supremacy — in part through public school curriculums shaped by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). More famous these days for their controversial Confederate monuments, the UDC had an almost singular focus on making sure the Lost Cause propaganda was so ingrained in the minds of Southern youth that it would be perpetual. Their most effective tool? School textbooks.
UDC President, Mrs. James A. Rounsaville, put it this way at the group’s annual convention in Charleston, South Carolina:
“It has ever been the cherished purpose of the Daughters of the Confederacy to secure greater educational opportunities for Confederate children, and by thorough training of their powers of mind, heart and hand, render it possible for these representatives of our Southern race to retain for that race its supremacy in its own land.”
But the UDC’s primary focus was on insuring that Southern schools used only those history books loyal to the Lost Cause.
The Rutherford Committee
At its annual reunion in Atlanta in 1919, the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) set up a committee to promulgate (make known, spread) the Lost Cause version of history through textbooks. It brought together the most prominent Confederate heritage associations — UCV, UDC, and Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). Each appointed five members. It came to be known as the Rutherford Committee after its most prominent member, Mildred Lewis Rutherford. An officer in the national UDC for years, Rutherford served as the group’s historian from 1911 to 1916. Her decades of popular, pro-Confederate writing brought her to national prominence, and she was also well known for serving up speeches that emphasized the victimization of the white South by the North, defended slavery, and praised the Ku Klux Klan.
The man who served as the committee’s chair for a number of years was C. Irvine Walker of South Carolina, also a former Confederate general. He was known for spearheading the reopening of the Citadel, the South’s premier military academy, which was closed after the Civil War. “During the days of Negro domination in South Carolina, I knew it would be hopeless to attempt the resuscitation,” he wrote in the “Memorandum of Gen. C. Irvine Walker of His Work Concerning the Reopening of the Citadel,” now housed in the school’s archives. “But when the state was returned to the control of its own citizens, the white people of South Carolina, I felt that the time had come to move, and I started the movement, which ended in success.” Irvine was also a leader in the Carolina Rifle Club, a group that offered itself as an alternative to the Ku Klux Klan, which Irvine had joined but personally found “too cumbersome and liable to be abused,” as he wrote in his 1869 book titled after the club itself. The purpose of the Rifle Club, he said, was to combat “the greatest social crime of all the ages — the sudden emancipation of four million of African slaves wholly incapable of freedom.” According to Irvine:
“That the South was partially saved from the terrible results which were to be expected from this sudden emancipation of four millions of negro slaves, her people are and ever will be indebted, first, to the civilizing and humanizing influences of the institution of negro slavery as it had existed in the Southern States from the days of the Colonies down to 1865, second, to the innate superiority and naturally dominating power of the white race, third, in the absence of the quality of savage ferocity in the negro race in the South, induced by generations of humane training by his white masters and mistresses, and to the kindness and loyalty felt and manifested by the former slave to his white friends in the South and, mainly, to the courage and endurance of Southern white women and the manliness and patience of Southern white men.”
These were the people who would guide history education for generations of Southerners.
Setting UDC standards
In 1919, the Rutherford Committee published the 23-page pamphlet “A Measuring Rod to Test Text Books, and Reference Books in Schools, Colleges and Libraries.” Written by Mildred Lewis Rutherford herself, it was the committee’s set of standards for what was acceptable in a history textbook — the Lost Cause mythology distilled into accessible bullet points and blurbs, backed by cherry-picked quotes from professors, politicians, newspapers, and period speeches.
The national UDC immediately embraced “Measuring Rod,” as did the state divisions. The UDC now had not only a simple set of rules for textbooks but also a distillation of Lost Cause ideology in a format easy for the general public to digest.
In 1920, Rutherford followed “The Measuring Rod” with a 114-page book titled “Truths of History,” in which she expanded the content of “The Measuring Rod” by adding more perceived wrongs levied upon the South by the North. This time, though, she specifically called out textbooks that offended the UDC by name. It was a blacklist, and it had an immediate effect as state divisions launched campaigns to ban books.
And, it was not unusual for UDC members to actually be appointed to the state textbook commissions. The UDC divisions in North Carolina and Texas both had members appointed to their respective state textbook commissions at various times. Many state commissions also allowed UDC members to attend their deliberative meetings to promote or criticize books.
The bottom line for national book publishers was they had decisions to make if they wanted to sell books to Southern schools. Go all in with Lost Cause dogma and be able to sell the book only in the South? Or have two versions of the same book — one with carefully worded, watered-down history for the South, and another one with historical facts for everyone else? The latter was often the choice. This also meant that books covering only state history tended to have a local author, a local publisher — and a stronger Lost Cause bias.
In 1957, Virginia commissioned a slew of Lost Cause textbooks. One of the more famous, “Virginia: History, Government, Geography,” presented slavery in glowing terms. “Enslaved people were happy to be in Virginia and were better off than they would have been in Africa,” it said. “Abolitionists lied about slavery in the South.”
These textbooks blamed the Civil War on Abraham Lincoln, and they falsely asserted that states’ rights and not slavery were the cause of the Civil War. The publisher even included illustrations showing happy captive Africans in Western dress clothes, shaking hands with their new masters on slave ships.
the UDC’s textbook campaign was quite successful, with public polling showing marked confusion about the causes of the Civil War. For example, a widely reported 2011 Pew Research Center poll found that 48% of Americans thought the conflict was mainly about states’ rights — including 60% of those under age 30 — while only 38% thought it was primarily about slavery.
This miseducation continues to have ramifications for U.S. civic life. A 2018 study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found serious inadequacies in how the history of American slavery is taught. Students’ lack basic knowledge about the critical role the slavery played in shaping the United States and how it continues to affect society today.
Kali Holloway is the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She co-curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts 2017 summer performance and film series, “Theater of the Resist.” She previously worked on the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. Her writing has appeared in AlterNet, Salon, the Guardian, TIME, the Huffington Post, the National Memo, and numerous other outlets.
From the website salon.com , she writes :
7 things the United Daughters of the Confederacy might not want you to know about them (October 6, 2018)
The organization keeps Confederate statues standing and spreads lies about America’s history of slavery
It’s helpful, in the midst of any conversation about this country’s Confederate monuments, to understand who put these things up, which also offers a clue as to why. In large part, the answer to the first question is the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a white Southern women’s “heritage” group founded in 1894. Starting 30 years after the Civil War, as historian Karen Cox notes in her 2003 book “Dixie’s Daughters,” “UDC members aspired to transform military defeat into a political and cultural victory, where states’ rights and white supremacy remained intact.” In other words, when the Civil War gave them lemons, the UDC made lemonade. Horribly bitter, super racist lemonade.
Though the UDC didn’t invent the Lost Cause ideology, they were deeply involved in spreading the myth, which simultaneously contends the Confederacy wasn’t fighting to keep black people enslaved while also suggesting slavery was pretty good for everyone involved. Lost Causers — plenty of whom exist today, their sheer numbers a reflection of the UDC’s effectiveness — argue that Confederate monuments are just innocent statues; that taking them down erases history; that we cannot retroactively apply today’s ideas about the morality of slavery to the past. The response to those ridiculous cop-outs is that Confederate monuments honor and glorify people who fought to maintain black chattel slavery; that they were erected for the explicit purpose of obfuscating (to obscure or blur) history; and that the immorality of slavery was always understood by the enslaved. Excuses, excuses: get better at them.
“In their earliest days, the United Daughters of the Confederacy definitely did some good work on behalf of veterans and in their communities,” says Heidi Christensen, former president of the Seattle, Washington, chapter of the UDC, who left the organization in 2012.
“But it’s also true that since the UDC was founded in 1894, it has maintained a covert connection with the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, in many ways, the group was the de facto women’s auxiliary of the KKK at the turn of the century. It’s a connection the group downplays now, but evidence of it is easily discoverable — you don’t even have to look very hard to find it.”
In 2017, after the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, UDC President Patricia M. Bryson posted an open letter claiming the UDC’s members “have spent 123 years honoring [Confederate soldiers] by various activities in the fields of education, history and charity, promoting patriotism and good citizenship,” and that members, “like our statues, have stayed quietly in the background, never engaging in public controversy.” But that isn’t true, not by a stretch. The UDC’s monuments, books, education and political agenda have always spoken loudly—in absolutely deafening shouts — on issues from anti-black racism to the historical memory of the Civil War across the South. Today, a shameful number of Americans don’t think slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War—even though the seceding states literally spelled this out in document form — in part because of the UDC’s campaign of misinformation. The most minor of gains made by blacks during the Reconstruction were obliterated nearly as soon as they were obtained, and the UDC backed that disenfranchisement full stop. Even the current UDC has mostly steadfastly refused — with rare exceptions — to take down Confederate monuments. They know the power of those symbols, both politically and socially, and they aren’t giving an inch, if they can help it.
The UDC have had a huge impact on this country, and to pretend they’ve stood “quietly in the background” would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting. The UDC both trained and became the white women of 1950s massive resistance, who author Elizabeth Gillespie McRae writes did “the daily work on multiple levels . . . needed to sustain racial segregation and to shape resistance to racial equality.” They set a precedent for a huge swath of today’s white women voters whose main political agenda is white supremacy — women who in a 2017 Alabama Senate race backed the alleged pedophile who wistfully longed for slavery and supported the presidency of a man who brags about grabbing women’s genitals when he’s not shouting his racism from the rafters. They have contributed to the construction of a “white womanhood” that has historically been and currently remains incredibly problematic, rendering “white feminism” eternally suspect. With their impact considered, and signs of their handiwork all over society — even carved indelibly into mountain sides — it seems worth understanding a few things about the UDC both then and now. Here are seven things you should know about the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
1. They published a very pro-KKK book. For children.
In 1914, the in-house historian of the UDC Mississippi chapter, Laura Martin Rose, published “The Ku Klux Klan, or Invisible Empire.” It’s essentially a love letter to the original Klan for its handiwork in the field of domestic terror in the years following the Civil War, when blacks achieved a modicum of political power. “[D]uring the Reconstruction period, sturdy white men of the South, against all odds, maintained white supremacy and secured Caucasian civilization, when its very foundations were threatened within and without,” Rose writes. She goes on to provide a look at the roots of racist anti-black stereotypes and language in this country, a lot of which is still recognizable in modern right-wing rhetoric. For example, she accuses black people of laziness — and wanting a handout — for refusing to keep working for free for white enslavers, and instead trying to find fortune where the jobs were: “Many negroes conceived the idea that freedom meant cessation from labor, so they left the fields, crowding into the cities and towns, expecting to be fed by the United States Government.” In one section, with pretty overt delight, Rose highlights the methods the KKK used to terrify black people, including posting notes around towns with the “picture of a figure dangling from the limb of a tree,” and exalts the KKK’s lawless, murderous violence:
“In the courts of this invisible, silent, and mighty government, there were no hung juries, no laws delayed, no reversals, on senseless technicalities by any Supreme Court, because from its Court there was no appeal, and punishment was sure and swift, because there was no executive to pardon. After the negro had surrendered to the Ku Klux Klan, which he did by obeying their orders to the very letter, — for they feared that organization more than the devil and the dark regions, — the Invisible Empire vanished in a night, and has been seen no more by mortal man on this earth.”
To be clear, Rose is here gushing about vast extrajudicial violence committed by the KKK against black people. In 1870, a federal grand jury labeled the KKK a “terrorist organization.” In 1871, a congressional committee was convened specifically to address the issue of Klan violence, and the report based on testimony from those hearings estimated “20,000 to as many as 50,000 people, mostly black, died in violence between 1866 and 1872.”
“This book was unanimously endorsed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy” at its general convention in November 1913, Rose notes, and the group “pledged to endeavor to secure its adoption as a supplementary reader in the schools and to place it in the libraries of our land.”
2. Actually, they published at least two very pro-KKK books. . .
and probably many more. Another UDC ode to the KKK was written by Annie Cooper Burton, then-president of the Los Angeles chapter of the UDC, and published in 1916. Titled “The Ku Klux Klan,” much like Rose’s aforementioned book, it argues that the Klan has gotten a bad rap just because they terrorized and intimidated black people, not infrequently assaulting and raping black women, murdering black citizens, and burning down black townships. For these reasons, she suggests, the UDC should do even more to show reverence to the Klan:
“Every clubhouse of the United Daughters of the Confederacy should have a memorial tablet dedicated to the Ku Klux Klan; that would be a monument not to one man, but to five hundred and fifty thousand men, to whom all Southerners owe a debt of gratitude.”
By “all Southerners,” Burton clearly means “only white people,” which is also what she means whenever she uses the word “people.”
3. They built a monument to the KKK.
The UDC was busiest during the 1910s and 1920s, two decades during which the group erected hundreds of Confederate monuments that made tangible the racial terror of Jim Crow. This, apparently, the group still considered insufficient to convey their message of white power and to reassert the threat of white violence. So in 1926, the UDC put up a monument to the KKK. In a piece for Facing South, writer Greg Huffman describes a record of the memorial in the UDC’s own 1941 book “North Carolina’s Confederate Monuments and Memorials:”
“IN COMMEMORATION OF THE ‘KU KLUX KLAN’ DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD FOLLOWING THE ‘WAR BETWEEN THE STATES’ THIS MARKER IS PLACED ON THEIR ASSEMBLY GROUND. THE ORIGINAL BANNER (AS ABOVE) WAS MADE IN CABARRUS COUNTY.
“ERECTED BY THE DODSON-RAMSEUR CHAPTER OF THE UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY. 1926”
4. Their most intense efforts focused on the “education” of white children.
“They had a multi-pronged approach to doing that,” Cox told me. “It involved going into schools and putting up battle flags and portraits of generals. It meant getting schools renamed for famous Confederates. It was creating the Children of the Confederacy, which was their formal youth auxiliary, so that the UDC could draw membership from the group when they became adults…Children were always involved in the unveiling of monuments. They would select one child to pull the cord, and then there’d be cheers when the monument was unveiled. Children in the stands would form what they called a ‘living battle flag.’ Then they sang Southern patriotic songs.”
Cox has also written about the Confederate catechism, a call-and-response style drill written by a UDC “historian” that posed as a history lesson:
“‘What causes led to the War Between the States, between 1861 and 1865?’ was a typical question. ‘The disregard, on the part of the states of the North, for the rights of the Southern or slaveholding states’ was the answer. ‘What were these rights?’ The answer . . . was ‘the right to regulate their own affairs and to hold slaves as property.’”
AP reporter Allen Breed has noted that the wording of the catechism has been “tweaked over the years,” but the version displayed on the UDC website as recently as August 2018 included this line: “Slaves, for the most part, were faithful and devoted. Most slaves were usually ready and willing to serve their masters.”
5. They’re big fans of black chattel slavery from way back.
The UDC were perhaps the most efficient agents making the ahistorical Lost Cause myth go viral. They did this through a number of methods, the most visually apparent being the 700 monuments exalting people who fought for black chattel slavery that still stand. But also, in the rare cases the UDC has “honored” black people with statuary and monuments, it has been in the form of “loyal slave” markers — an actual subgenre of Confederate monuments — which perpetuate the image of content enslaved blacks and benevolent white enslavers. In 1923, the UDC tried to erect a monument in Washington, D.C., “in memory of the faithful slave mammies of the South.” The Senate signed off on it, but the idea never came to fruition.
More successful was the UDC’s effort at placing a monument in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, that plays fast and loose with the biography of Haywood “Heyward” Shepherd (the UDC didn’t even bother to get his first name right), a free black man whom an inscription depicts as a “faithful negro” who chose slaveryover freedom, as all “the best” blacks did. The UDC was even given a place in Arlington National Cemetery for a Confederate monument that includes a weeping black “mammy” figure holding a white child and an enslaved black man marching alongside his enslaver into battle. The 1914 marker intentionally included the enslaved figure to propagate the idea that black people were willing, eager soldiers for the Confederacy — a suggestion that would mean the war couldn’t have been about slavery, which wasn’t so bad anyway. As historian Kevin Levin has documented at length, that lie has become a neo-Confederate talking point in a long list of other neo-Confederate lies.
6. They get tax breaks that help keep their workings financially solvent.
The UDC is a nonprofit. That means it’s a tax-exempt organization. That recent article about the UDC by AP reporter Allen Breed notes that the annual budget of Virginia, where the UDC is headquartered, “awards the state [division of the] UDC tens of thousands of dollars for the maintenance of Confederate graves — more than $1.6 million since 1996.”
7. They continue to exert political and social influence.
For the most part, the UDC has publicly kept pretty mum on the subject of Confederate monument removal, which has led some to conclude that the group is largely inactive, and even obsolete. Their numbers have dwindled since their heyday, but they remain tenacious about keeping Confederate monuments standing, thus continuing their cultural and political influence. The UDC does this mostly through lawsuits. (The number of Confederate markers on courthouses has always shown the group’s keen interest in the power of the legal system.) When the San Antonio City Council voted in the weeks after the racist violence in Charlottesville to remove a Confederate monument from public property, the UDC filed suit against city officials. The Shreveport, Louisiana, chapter of the UDC has announced it will appeal a federal judge’s 2017 dismissal of the group’s lawsuit to keep up a Confederate monument at a local courthouse. The UDC threatened legal action against officials in Franklin, Tennessee, when city officials announced plans — not to take down a UDC monument to the Confederacy, but to add markers recognizing African-American historical figures to the park, which the UDC claims it owns. The city of Franklin, with pretty much no other option, responded by filing a lawsuit against the UDC. And then there’s the case of the UDC vs. Vanderbilt University, in which the group’s Tennessee division filed suit after school administrators announced plans to remove the word “Confederate” from one of its dorms. A state appeals court ruled Vanderbilt could only implement the plan if it repaid $50,000 the UDC had contributed to the building’s construction in 1933 — adjusted to 2016 dollars. Vanderbilt opted to pay $1.2 million to the UDC rather than keep “Confederate” in the dorm name, which it raised from anonymous donors who contributed to a fund explicitly dedicated to the cause.
What Changed in Charlottesville
For white supremacists, Confederate monuments aren’t about the past — they symbolize a racist vision of the future.
Until Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments was mostly about history, pitting claims about the preservation of Southern heritage against the monuments’ historical ties to slavery and Jim Crow. What has become crystal clear in the last two years is that these monuments are no longer relics of a horrendous past — they have been resurrected as symbols of white nationalism. The people who showed up in Charlottesville were not there because of their nostalgia for the Confederacy. Many had no Confederate ancestry, nor were they Southern. They arrived angry about being displaced, or perhaps replaced, by immigrants; by women; by African-Americans; by anyone who, in effect, challenged white male patriarchy. They saw the potential removal of the Lee monument, a statue with historical links to white supremacy, as a siren call for their movement.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization that sponsored the construction of most of the country’s Confederate monuments, has tried to distance itself from the white nationalists’ embrace of the women’s work in the first half of the 20th century. In December 2018, the organization’s president general, NelmaCrutchers, denounced “any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy” and called “on these people to cease using Confederate symbols for their abhorrent and reprehensible purposes.”
Of course, the fact that white supremacists have so easily attached themselves to the monument debate gives the lie to the assertion that it was ever simply about “Southern heritage.” In truth, as the monuments’ opponents have always claimed, honoring Lee or any other Confederate figure is to honor the brutal system of slavery they sought to defend, and the white supremacist ideology of the Jim Crow era during which the monuments were erected. Ms. Crutchers, like other modern defenders of the Confederate past, suggests that such assertions are just a matter of interpretation and historical relativism, and that we should not “impose the standards of the 21st century on these Americans of the 19th century.”
Her predecessors had fewer qualms about embracing white supremacy. Mildred Rutherford, who served as the organization’s historian in the early part of the 20th century, made it her personal crusade to see to it that future generations of white children were not “misinformed” about Southern slavery. She spoke of how former slaves were “savage to the last degree” and claimed that “slavery was no disgrace to the owner or the owned.”