By Colin Woodward
Since many people have commented here recently on the Virginia Flagger issue, I’ve posted a link to Kevin Levin, who has more on the controversy, especially the UDC’s take on it. Apparently, the UDC is annoyed by the Flaggers as everyone else. http://cwmemory.com/2012/03/15/a-relic-of-the-past/
While I agree with Kevin that this issue is a “relic of the past,” I don’t see this as some kind of last gasp of the Confederate battle flag crowd. I think as long as there is a South, there will be those who want to fly “Dixie” and don’t care about who it offends.
In other formerly Confederate cities, such as I the one I live in, things are not as weird as in Richmond. You don’t see Rebel flags flying from buildings. But, the defenders of “Dixie” are out there. The other day, I saw some guy with a Confederate flag bumper sticker that said “I’m Offended that Your Offended.” Well.
Colin Woodward is a historian and archivist. He is the author of Marching Masters, Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2014). He is writing a second book on Johnny Cash.
3 thoughts on “More on the Virginia Flaggers and “Dixie””
As a follow up, here is my reply to their statement…
Speaking as one who was on the Boulevard in Richmond last Saturday, I can say that the account in the the statement today by Mrs. Van Schaick, with a few minor exceptions, is accurate, and in fact, is almost exactly as has been previously reported. I believe that some of you, however, may have formed the wrong impression of the Va Flaggers. I hope you will allow me the privilege of sharing some information with you.
The Va Flaggers are a group of Southerners who defend our heritage when attacked. We are male and female, young and old, black and white. Although we do not discuss our affiliation unless asked, many of us are UDC Daughters, SCV Sons, and in almost all cases, proud descendants of Confederate veterans. Our youngest flagger just turned 3 years old, and we have elderly men and women and those that need chairs to stand/sit with us. Saturday, a majority of the group that was asked to leave UDC property, and that the police were called to investigate, were uniformed members of the Captain William Latane Color Guard.
When needed, we stand with our flags against those in opposition in a peaceful, yet forceful manner, to educate and inform the general public, and in open and visible protest against those who have attacked us, our flags, our ancestors, or our Heritage. Flaggers speak for those who have no voice. We relay a message of Honor, Dignity, Respect, and Heritage to those who never knew, or to those who have forgotten, and to attempt to reach those who refuse to hear. Our weapon is the Confederate Battle Flag. Our enemies are those who worship ignorance, historical revisionism and Political Correctness.
Over the past 26 weeks, over 160 people have stood vigil with us outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in protest of their discriminatory actions in forcing the removal of Confederate Battle Flags from the Pelham Chapel/Confederate War Memorial. Following is a brief summary of the situation there:
Twenty years after Gen. Robert E. Lee rode into Appomattox and surrendered his tattered army, ending the War Between the States, a memorial chapel was built in Richmond in memory of the 260,000 Confederate soldiers who died during the conflict. The Pelham Chapel – Confederate War Memorial is designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S., and has been granted the status of Confederate Monument by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The organ in the chapel was donated by a group of Union veterans from Lynn, Mass. One of the contributors to the soldiers’ home that surrounded the chapel was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. And a Union private from Massachusetts donated his annual pension to support the home.
Confederate flags had flown over the grounds since the opening of the Old Soldiers Home in 1885. Those flags did not trouble the Union soldiers who donated the organ to the chapel; nor did they trouble Ulysses S. Grant. They were placed there by Confederate Veterans, to memorialize the Confederate dead, and honor the living.
Fast forward 150 years…on the eve of the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the War Between the States, June 1st, 2010, Confederate Battle Flags were forcibly removed from the Confederate War Memorial by a restriction in the lease renewal, at the insistence of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
This is in direct violation of Virginia law, which clearly states: “it shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same. For purposes of this section, “disturb or interfere with” includes removal of, damaging or defacing monuments or memorials, or, in the case of the War Between the States, the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.” (§ 15.2-1812)
As citizens of Virginia and descendants of Confederate soldiers who gallantly answered Virginia’s call to defend her, we demand that the VMFA remove these blatantly prejudicial restrictions and allow the Confederate Battle Flags to once again fly on the Confederate War Memorial.
Our efforts have gained much attention and support as we change hearts and minds out on the sidewalk. As you can imagine, it was quite a blow when, in our entire 26 weeks out on the sidewalk, the only time we were questioned by the police, was at the hands of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
We had no “beef” with the UDC. We were not looking to “pick a fight”. We do not expect all UDC members to be Flaggers. We WOULD, however, expect an organization whose main purpose is memorializing our Confederate dead, to support another organization, fighting for that very right, in their own back yard, or at least not hinder their efforts!
According to the IRS’ own website, and counsel from various sound legal resources, the ONLY thing a 501(c)(3) status prohibits a group from doing is endorsing a political candidate. It does not prevent an organization from flying a battle flag to support the Confederate Memorial Chapel. The UDC Memorial building is in the same block as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts AND the Pelham Chapel. The Veterans whom the VMFA are dishonoring are the reason they have a building, at all. Imagine the statement it would make for those flags to fly again! The Va Flaggers offered to pay for the flags and/or provide the manpower to raise and lower them daily, and were refused.
501(c)(3) status also does not prohibit an organization from allowing a group of people with Confederate flags to stand on, or cross their property, or to take a photo on their steps. Approximately 4 weeks ago, officials at the VMFA began prohibiting us from crossing their property with flags, of any kind. Since that time, we have crossed the UDC property to get to and from our vehicles, and, occasionally, used a portion of the land on which the HQ sits to stand and talk with Museum visitors. You can imagine our shock to see the property posted last week, and understand why I went inside to inquire about the purpose of the new signs.
Yes, there were some feelings of anger among our Flaggers after the incident on Saturday. I believe it was not misplaced. The men of the Capt. William Latane Color Guard, SCV have provided a color guard for the ladies of the UDC on many, many occasions. Most prominent, though, was a feeling of being punched in the gut…betrayal and hurt, by those who should be, if not standing with us, then at least not working against us.
Perhaps the saddest fallout of the incident will be the loss of prospective members. We were joined Saturday by the wife and daughter of one of the Latane color guard officers. There were also five UDC daughters flagging that day, and we had spoken with the ladies about joining our organization. (Yes, although it was not mentioned in the statement, I am a Daughter, as well) They were very interested and wanted to look into it further, but after what they witnessed, they told us they could never imagine joining an organization that would chase them, their Father, and elderly Grandfather off of their property and call the police to investigate.
I hope that this incident, as ugly as it was, will be a wake up call to the fact that WE, as an organization, need to take a closer look at what our founding Sisters had in mind in their efforts to preserve and protect the honor and memory of our Confederate Veterans. The UDC is a wonderful institution, with many fine and noble causes, but if we don’t wake up soon to what is going on OUTSIDE of our doors, I fear there will be no more memorials left to decorate.
Thank you, and God Bless!
Links with information regarding restricted activities of 501(c)(3) organizations:
Click to access 14_Examples_01.pdf
I just discovered this blog. The VMFA controversy is preposterous. The state owns the Chapel, and not being able to fly a battle flag over a religious building you don’t own is not something I could get worked up about. I’m more annoyed that these people keep using my family name.
The last few times I’ve been in Richmond (in the summer of 2015), I didn’t, thankfully, see any Flaggers outside the VMFA. They are an embarrassment to Richmond, the South, and the nation. Perhaps the controversy has died. I can’t imagine the Charleston flag removal helped the Flaggers’ cause. And I guess, like the Confederacy itself, the Flaggers figured they could only pursue a bad idea for so long before giving up.Besides, if they really, really want to see Rebel flags, all they have to do is drive ten minutes from the VMFA along Lakeside Avenue into Henrico county. That place has rednecks aplenty.