Protesters complicated a “standard business meeting” held this weekend by the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s North Carolina division.
The group, which collaborated with UNC leaders in the early 1900s to put Silent Sam on campus, met at its headquarters house Saturday in Raleigh, a building with the Confederate States of America's national flag flying in the front yard.
The Daughters, all of whom are women from the bloodline of Confederate army servants, arrived one by one, some fully clad in hats and dresses that could have come directly from the wardrobe of a wealthy Civil War-era Southerner.
Uninvited visitors prompted each of the women to quicken their pace.
Carrying signs with messages like “white power convention” and “UDC: KKK Ladies Auxiliary,” a handful of women from the group Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action protested the Daughters from the sidewalk.
Almost a dozen members of the Daughters’ partner organization, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, created a perimeter around the house to support the women. They corresponded with one another on walkie talkies and, on a couple of occasions, spoke with aggression.
“They’re like pests in a house,” one of the Sons said loudly to his fellow members. “They need exterminating.”
At one point during the protest, demonstrator Heather Redding read aloud a passage from “The Ku Klux Klan or Invisible Empire,” a 1914 book written by S.E.F. Rose, former historian general of the Daughters. At the time, both the Daughters and the Sons made efforts to have Rose’s book adopted in Southern schools and libraries.
Rose’s book claimed that the Ku Klux Klan was founded to protect the homes and women of the South, and that KKK membership was comprised of surviving Confederate soldiers after their Civil War defeat. It stated that no other organization ever held “loftier ideas or noble purposes” when forced to confront the "war penalty... (of) slave confiscation and Reconstruction under African rule."
“We know what they have done to try and revise history,” Redding said. “We know about their racist literature. And now that we know that, we’re not going to let them off the hook.”
That book also stated that after a Black person was repeatedly warned to conduct himself properly, the KKK “would carry him out to give him a severe whipping as a punishment … and the negro would make an attack on the Ku Klux, who were then forced to kill him in self-defense.”
The Daughters still promote pro-Confederate literature by incentivizing divisions for things like donating books to libraries and rewarding members, along with their children, for participation in essay contests based around idealized Confederate topics.
No members of the Daughters were available for comment. Frank Powell, spokesperson for the Sons, said he found the criticisms funny, calling the protesters misinformed people clinging to a false narrative of history. When asked what he thought the protesters were misinterpreting about history, Powell hesitated.
“I’m not sure how to answer that, to tell you the truth,” Powell said. “(That's a) very involved question.”
UNC geography professor Altha Cravey also attended the protest. She said that while the Daughters have lost a lot of social status compared to the group's peak years in the Jim Crow South, it still carries political influence, as noted by the group’s newsletter, the Confederate Courier.
It stated multiple times over the course of 2015 that Mitchell Setzer, Republican member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, had been a tenant at the Raleigh headquarters house, where he paid utilities year-round and donated items like a grandfather clock and vacuums.
The house carries an estimated market value of $642,300, according to Homes.com, and it rests directly across the street from the North Carolina Executive Mansion, built in the late 1800s to serve as the home of the governor. Due to the Daughters’ status as a nonprofit organization, it does not pay taxes on the residency.
"I want them to know that they're being watched by the public, and that their quiet organizing is going to be amplified by anti-racist protesters," Redding said.
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