The following is the letter that will be sent to President Obama May 1, 2011 with a list of co-signers. Note at the top of the side bar of this blog is a link to this posting of the letter and the background information for this letter. If you wish to be a co-signer email me. email@example.com
May 1, 2011
Edward H. Sebesta firstname.lastname@example.org
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
I am writing this letter with two requests:
1. Do not send a wreath to Arlington Confederate monument on Memorial Day.
2. End the practice of allowing the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to distribute awards at U.S. Service academies and military academies that provide officers to the U.S. military.
By ending these two practices, the Office of the President can demonstrate its commitment to an egalitarian, democratic United States and challenge the growing political power of neo-Confederate ideology. In the pages that follow, I will outline how and why I believe the Office of the President should take these steps and stop honoring the slave-holding Confederate States of America, whose supporters, in groups like the UDC, continue to oppose civil rights and promote a discriminatory and erroneous understanding of U.S. history. Unfortunately, to date the Office of the Presidency has actively enabled neo-Confederacy by sending a wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument, a monument that depicts scenes of white supremacy and African-American subservience. I urge that you end this practice.
Secondly, as one the oldest and most powerful neo-Confederate organizations, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) has a long history of opposition to the values of a multiracial democratic United States of America.[i] Since its formation in 1894, the UDC has consistently acclaimed the Ku Klux Klan, opposed civil rights, and challenged racial and social equality.[ii] These political opinions are not confined to the UDC’s past; they continue and yet the organization is permitted to issue eight annual awards at U.S. service academies:
* The Robert E. Lee Sabre at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York
* The Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury Award at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
* The Lieutenant General Claire L. Chenault Award at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
* The Admiral Raphael Semmes Award at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut
* The Matthew Fontaine Maury Award at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York
* The Stonewall Jackson Award at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia
* The William Porcher DuBose Award at the Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina
* Wade Hampton Sabre award at the Citadel given by the South Carolina Division UDC.
Permission for the UDC to give these awards to U.S. servicemen and servicewomen must be discontinued. Their annual distribution continues to legitimate the Confederacy and, by appropriating the prestige of the United States military in exchange for small gifts, the UDC both honors themselves and the Confederate leaders who fought against the U.S. military to sustain slavery and white supremacy.
The UDC’s veneration of white supremacy is not just historical. In recent years the UDC has promoted the neo-Confederate Southern Partisan magazine, pro-Confederate books like So Good a Cause: A Decade of the Southern Partisan in which Richard M. Weaver refers to Chicago as an “evil flower,”[iii] Michael Andrew Grissom’s Southern By the Grace of God, which states slaves were well-treated servants, and lauds Thomas Dixon’s notorious, racist 1905 novel, The Clansman.[iv] Authors in UDC publications continue to correct what they state are American “misconceptions” about the horrors of slavery,[v] and promote anti-democratic, pro-secessionist bodies like the Abbeville Institute, [vi] an organization whose leaders are closely associated with the League of the South, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a ‘hate group.’ It is clear, therefore, that even in the 21st Century, members of the UDC continue its tradition of racism and opposition to equality, yet the United States military tacitly supports and enables this neo-Confederate ideology by allowing the UDC to award honors at U.S. Service academies and other military schools.
The toleration of this activity by the U.S. military reflects poor judgment. Future military officers of the Republic should not be given awards named after individuals who lead an insurrection against the United States to preserve slavery, by an organization dedicated to the glorification of this insurrection. Additionally, several of these awards are named after notorious racists.[vii] Raphael Semmes, for example, erected a tombstone in Mexico with the inscription “In memoriam of Abraham Lincoln, President of the late United States, who died of nigger on the brain, 1st January 1863,” and yet Semmes is honored with an award given to an exemplary cadet of the U.S. Coast Guard academy.
In summary, the UDC promotes a neo-Confederate ideology that challenges American democratic practices, praises and promotes racist books, and offers defenses of slavery. Consequently, in addition to ending the practice of sending a Presidential wreath to the Confederate Monument in Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, I ask you to end the practice of the UDC granting awards at America’s service academies and end their involvement in the affairs of the United States Military. Rather than annually celebrating the Confederacy, the United States of America needs a national conversation about the Confederacy, the Civil War, the overthrow of Reconstruction and neo-Confederacy. With the start of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2011 would be an ideal time to begin such a discussion to acknowledge the historical truth about these issues. With a false understanding of the historical past we poison the future. Or, as the great W.E.B. Du Bois angrily explained in regards to the upcoming Civil War Centennial celebrations in 1960:
Thus we train generations of men who do not know the past, or believe a false picture of the past, to have no trustworthy guide for living and to stumble doggedly on, through mistake after mistake, to fatal ends. Our history becomes “lies agreed upon” and stark ignorance guides our future.[viii]
I would be happy to provide further documentation as you require.
Edward H. Sebesta
[i] The online publication, Black Commentator, has an article about some of the more contemporary UDC promotion of neo-Confederacy at (http://www.blackcommentator.com/274/274_clinton_udc.html). For more background on the UDC’s promotion of racism information is provided online at http://www.confederatepastpresent.org/ in conjunction with the Winter Institute at the University of Mississippi for both the Nader Period and the Modern Civil Rights Era, additionally a brief summary of the history of the racism of the UDC can be found at http://arlingtonconfederatemonument.blogspot.com/2011/02/united-daughters-of-confederacy-and.html.
[ii] Fannie Selph, The South in American Life and History, Nashville Chapters of United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1928, pp. 372-374, praised the KKK; for the Susan Lawrence book on the KKK see, No Author, “Memorial Fund to Honor Wilson Boosted by U.D.C,” Atlanta Constitution, 11/22/1924; in the UDC’s official publication, Southern Magazine, see Walter Henry Cook, “Secret Political Societies in the South During The Period of Reconstruction,” The Southern Magazine, pages 3-5, 42-43, Vol. III No. 1, July 1936, News Publishing Company, Wytheville, Virginia; for Mildred Rutherford’s address praising the KKK see, Mildred Rutherford, an address, “The Thirteen Periods of United States History,” delivered as UDC Historian General to the UDC convention, November 13, 1913, from a section titled, “The Humiliated South of The Reconstruction Period.” These articles can be found at http://www.confederatepastpresent.org/ a web site in conjunction with the Winter Institute.
For article attacking school integration see Bruce Dunstan, Jefferson Davis – The Man America Needs Today,” UDC Magazine, June 1958, pp. 19, 23, 26, 27; Attack on school integration at UDC convention see Gen. Sumter Lowry, UDC Magazine, serialized over two issues, February 1959 pp. 32, March 1959, pp. 15, 22, 24, a speech at a UDC convention. The complete text can be read in The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The ‘Great Truth’ about the ‘Lost Cause, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2010. The United Daughters of the Confederacy ran numerous articles attacking Civil Rights and school integration during the 1950s and many of these can be read at http://www.confederatepastpresent.org/.
[iii] Erath, Clara, “Confederate Notes,” page 11, United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, Vol. 58 No. 7, August, 1995.
[iv] Grissom, Mike, “The Mystery of John Hunt Cole,” pages 27-29, United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, Vol. 51 No. 9, September 1988.
[v] Lee, Dr. Walter W., III, “The African Slave Trade,” pages 18-19, United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, Vol. 52 No. 4, April 1989.
[vi] Erath, Clara, “Confederate Notes: The Value of Southern Tradition,” page 17, United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, Vol. 68 No. 7, August 2005.
[vii] Wade Hampton, for example, was the leader of the Red Shirts who conducted a violent and successful campaign to restore white supremacy in South Carolina ending the multiracial democracy of Reconstruction. Wade Hampton is a hero to the UDC South Carolina Division precisely because he restored white supremacy to South Carolina and overthrew Reconstruction. United Daughters of the Confederacy, South Carolina Division: Golden Anniversary 1896-1946, no author. The UDC South Carolina Division issued a publication with the cover, “United Daughters of the Confederacy, South Carolina Division: Golden Anniversary 1896-1946.” In it on page 13 is an article titled, “Oakley Park, Edgefield’s Red Shirt Shrine.” Oakley Park is an old Plantation house which the South Carolina UDC division had decided in October 1944 to restore. The importance of this house for restoration is stated in the article, “Oakley Park was the home of General Martin Witherspoon Gary, who with his Red Shirts, in 1876, did so much to restore white supremacy in South Carolina.” The article explains further that “The “Red Shirts” were largely ex-Confederate soldiers under the leadership of their one-time military commanders,” and that “Conditions were desperate! The Democrats were determined to get the government back into the hands of the white people.” The UDC article praises the success of the Red Shirts says that they “… accomplished the overthrow of that “blackest abomination” – The Radical Government of South Carolina.”
In the 21st century the UDC continues to promote the “Red Shirt Shrine,” the UDC run Oakley Park Museum in Edgefield, South Carolina. In the June/July 2001 issue of UDC Magazine, the cover illustration is a photo of the Oakley Park plantation house for an article in the issue about it.[vii] The UDC raised money for this museum in the 1940s and has promoted them as heroes over the years, including the aforementioned Wade Hampton Sabre award.
The racism of others for whom these awards are named is given online at http://arlingtonconfederatemonument.blogspot.com/2011/02/biographical-background-of-racism-of.html.
[viii] W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Lie of History as It Is Taught Today (The Civil War: The War to Preserve Slavery), February 15, 1960, from “W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader,” edited by Andrew Paschal, Collier Books edition, New York, 1993, pp. 115-120.
If you wish to be a co-signer email me.
UPDATE: The Chronicles of Higher Education has mentioned this letter in an article about universities, including the U.S. Military academies which work with the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The link is: http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/bowdoin-ends-confederate-heritage-award-like-many-still-offered-by-u-s-service-academies/106066
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