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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

The Sordid Political History of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

A Brief History of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
Looking at the SCV with its Confederate uniforms, women in hooped skirts, the first impulse is amazement and laughter. They look like they should have been in those pictures taken at the infamous VMI barracks party.

However they have a political past and present. Hopefully their future is limited.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans was formed in 1896 as a fraternal organization of male Confederate descendants. Their purpose, according to their own history, was to carry forth the Southern version of the "Lost Cause", the Civil War.

In those days, in Southern white society, Confederate veterans were treated as icons.
The SCV and Confederate veteran's organizations lobbied for pensions for Confederate veterans. These pensions came from the state treasury.

In 1902, Virginia pushed through a Constitution that enshrined white supremacy into law. More than a few Confederate Veterans and SCV members participated.

This Constitution allowed for literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. to disenfranchise African Americans.

Among its features was one of primary importance: Confederate Veterans and their SONS were exempt from poll taxes. Needless to say, there were not many African American Confedrate Veterans. This feature ensured that there was a ready pool of white supremacists ready to vote in Virginia elections.

The SCV ensured that a steady stream of veneration for the Confederacy would be there.
It purported to care for Confederate Veterans, widows, cared for cemeteries and always touted the Confederacy as a social role model worthy of emulation.

Never once has it examined its poll tax exemption and how historically that impacted Southern racial politics.

The nostalgia produced by SCV and its sister organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy was a psychological balm for a South that could not admit its loss of 500,000 men killed, even more wounded, land and economy destroyed, was for a nasty cause.

Other countries, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Britain, France were able to end slavery peacefully. The Southern United States has the dubious honor of being a region that fought for slavery.

Like the Holocaust deniers In Europe and Iran, the SCV protests that the Civil War was about States Rights... yes states rights to own slaves. That right was part of the Confederate Constitution.

Modern SCV members like to say they are honoring their roots, their ancestors, their past. All I could say to my my great grandfather who fought with the 10th Virginia Cavalry was that he was a fool.

The SCV, today and yesterday, subscribes to the view that Reconstruction was abominable.
Yet if one reads Black Reconstruction by W.E.B. Dubois and other more modern histories of the turbulent post-Civil war era, the positive comes out.

The Reconstruction era brought about money for public schools, roads, improvements in care for the mentally ill and other progressive legislation. Very few African American political leaders wanted to disenfranchise Confederates. However, Southern Confederate veterans through paramilitary Klans, used lynching, murder and other violence to silence Blacks and whites who resisted the resurection of white supremacy.

The SCV, by its very nature and organizational aims is on the wrong side of history that it erroneously interprets. The Conferacy was not a noble cause in 1861, the period of Jim Crow after 1865 was not noble and worshipping Robert E. Lee or other Confederates is about as noble as Neo-Nazism.

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