Category Archives: Curtains for the Confederacy

A New Book: A Quaker’s Life in Our “Interesting,” Tumultuous Times

Emma Lapsansky-Werner and Chuck Fager at the Quaker History Roundtable, summer of 2017

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Freedom Schools Are Back! (Starting In Florida)

[NOTE: Freedom schools were a key element of 1960s civil rights activism in the deep South. Their important legacy is no longer only history, but is now being revived and reinvented, starting in Florida, as resistance to resurgent racism in education. What a great idea.]

Washington Post

After Florida restricts Black history, churches step up to teach it


By Brittany Shammas
 — September 24, 2023

Lynching memorial (detail)), Montgomery Alabama, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

MIAMI — They filed into the pews one after the other on a sweltering Wednesday night, clutching Bibles and notepads, ready to learn at church what they no longer trusted would be taught at school.

“BLACK HISTORY MATTERS” proclaimed television screens facing the several dozen men and women settling in at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. An institution in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Liberty City,

Continue reading Freedom Schools Are Back! (Starting In Florida)

Aiming for the Roots: Anti-Racism and A Failed Attack on Racist Culture

It was in the second session of our anti-racism class, if I remember right, that the teacher drew a diagram on the big flip chart. I’m going to call it TUD, for The Unforgettable Diagram. I’ve forgotten a lot about the class, but not that. Definitely not that.

The class met in the library at Pendle Hill, the Quaker study/retreat center near Philadelphia. The teacher came all the way from Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s iconic college town. Continue reading Aiming for the Roots: Anti-Racism and A Failed Attack on Racist Culture

Confederate Bogus “Saint” Begone! Welcome to Fort Gregg-Adams


New York Times

Exorcising the Ghost of Robert E. Lee [Excerpts]

Credit…Mark Harris

Mr. Staples is a member of the editorial board.

Renamed (Recaptured) April 27, 2023. The post is about 25 miles south of Richmond, onetime “capital” of the rebel confederacy.

It stands to reason that Woodrow Wilson would be the president to bring us Army bases named for traitors who waged war on this country with the goal of preserving slavery. He took office in 1913 with a team of white supremacists who announced themselves by requiring separate white and colored bathrooms in federal buildings. The Wilsonians inflicted a neo-Confederate regime on the capital that was felt in far corners of the nation. . . .

The coup was rooted in an influential civic religion known as the Lost Cause. The Lost Causers venerated racial terrorism as a means of suppressing Black political influence. They romanticized slavery, portraying African Americans who lived in chains as happy and well cared for. They recast the pro-slavery war as a just struggle for “states’ rights” while elevating the dead Confederate general Robert E. Lee to the stature of a patron saint.

The Wilsonians were plying these waters when they gave Lee’s name to Fort Lee in Virginia. The myth of the noble Confederate that was used to justify the naming honor was bankrupt from the start. Some rebel honorees were known at the time to be profoundly incompetent as soldiers and leaders. At least one honoree was a state Ku Klux Klan leader. Yet another, the execrable George Pickett, was a war criminal.

Lee is widely regarded as a brilliant tactician. But he also did nothing to stop his soldiers from systematically kidnapping free Black citizens into slavery. During the Gettysburg campaign, African Americans who found themselves in his army’s path fled in large numbers to avoid being dragged south and sold at auction. The Civil War diarist Rachel Cormany reported that some were hunted down by soldiers on horseback and herded into custody “just like we would drive cattle.” In the eyes of these soldiers, every Black person was a runaway slave.

As recently as a decade ago, U.S. military officials stood by the anemic fiction that Confederate base names had nothing to do with race hatred. But that position rang hollow each time Confederate ideology figured in episodes of racist violence. The connection was crystal clear in 2015, when a gunman sought to instigate a race war by killing nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.

Congress finally parted company with the myth of the noble Confederate in 2021. It overrode a presidential veto to order the Defense Department to rid its assets of “names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia” that commemorate the Confederate States of America. The legislation established a commission that brought forward new names for nine Army installations in the South.

The main event of the renamingproject unfolds on Thursday [April 28] in Virginia, when Fort Lee is rechristened Fort Gregg-Adams. This change derives its emotional power from the fact that the saint of the lavishly racist Lost Cause is being replaced by two African Americans who served in the Army during the Jim Crow era.

Lt. Col. Charity Adams served with distinction during World War II as commander of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in Europe. Her quietly dignified memoir, “One Woman’s Army,” offers a close view of the racism men and women in uniform faced both inside and outside the military.

While visiting her family in Columbia, S.C., she encountered hooded Ku Klux Klansmen who had turned out in force in an attempt to intimidate her father, who was the president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. On another occasion, she was traveling in a first-class train car when an enraged white passenger demanded that a military police officer check her credentials.

“That woman over there is wearing an officer’s uniform,” the passenger said, according to her memoir, “and I am sure she is an impostor. Why, she’s a ‘Negra.’” While stationed in Europe as a major, she was threatened with court-martial for standing her ground against a racist general who had insulted her. She nonetheless thrived, leaving the service in 1946 as the second-highest-ranking officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg commanded logistics units around the world and was among the African Americans who applied for training in 1948, the year President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which was supposed to end segregation in the armed forces.

When he arrived as a second lieutenant two years later at Fort Lee, Mr. Gregg found himself barred from the whites-only officers’ club, also named for the general. The camp commander was attempting to build a separate club for colored officers only, in open defiance of Truman’s order, as the Black press reported soon afterward.

In the summer of 1951 — a full three years after the order — the African American investigative journalist James L. Hicks reported that Fort Lee was running under Jim Crow rules, even requiring separate colored hours at its swimming pools.

Mr. Hicks wrote pointedly that the base “named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee is actually being operated by Major R.C.L. Graham as though it is still one of the Confederate states and as if General Lee himself were its commanding officer.”

Mr. Gregg is now 94 years old, and last week he returned triumphant to Fort Lee for a ceremony that changed the name of that officers’ club to the Gregg-Adams Club.. . .
The decision to expunge Confederate tributes from military assets reflects a welcome, if belated, declaration that the men who nearly destroyed the country in defense of the right to own human beings are unworthy of federal veneration. That it took so long to reach this realization reflects the extent to which the lie of the Lost Cause still holds sway in the United States.

Powerful Quote of The Week: the American Future Is In the South

[Sectarian NOTE: The author here does not mention (and why should she?) that the South, especially North Carolina, has been very important in the history of my own small tribe, the Quakers. I didn’t know or expect this when I came here 21 years ago, so far from the self-identified and self-important “centers” of the sect in Philadelphia, Richmond (Indiana) and Newberg (Oregon).  But once here, I learned it was so (as I learned much more that was important yet unexpected). That continuing learning has been the subject of many posts here, and as way opens, likely many more.]

Why I Keep My Eyes — and My Mind — on the South (Excerpts)

Opinion Columnist

Tressie McMillan Cottom
Tressie McMillan Cottom

While the world was watching the former president surrender to authorities in a New York City courthouse last week, I was watching Nashville and Raleigh. I live in North Carolina, and these two seats of government and capital cities in bordering southern states have been roiled with political unrest in the shadow of the Donald Trump Show.

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