For as long as the misleading Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War has circulated, African American activists have spoken out against its attempts to erase Black agency and to redeem white supremacist violence. But early voices of protest were stifled by the spread of this ideology, which came to dominate mainstream public memory of the Civil War.
In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has again amplified resistance to Lost Cause mythology. Down with the Confederacy! Lessons from Black Activists is a conversation with Bree Newsome Bass and Emil Little, who inspired the protest movement through their powerful symbolic acts of civil disobedience. After the Charleston Massacre in 2015, Newsome Bass scaled the flagpole outside the South Carolina state capital and tore down the Confederate flag. Little protested at the University of North Carolina in 2018 by smearing their blood and red ink on the Silent Sam Confederate monument. The conversation will be moderated by Clint Smith, author of New York Times best-selling book How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (2021).
This conversation is urgent today, as Charlottesville and other communities consider the fate of their Confederate monuments. The University of Virginia Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project is a proud sponsor of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s “Swords Into Plowshares” proposal, which aims to melt down Charlottesville’s recently-removed Robert E. Lee statue and repurpose its bronze for new public art.