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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Advantages of racism for white southern women

Though Durr never attended a Klan rally, aspects of white supremacy and white supremacist organizations remained an integral part of her early life. Here she describes rallies held by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I never went to one, but I've been to many a Klan parade. I just took it for granted, I never thought anything of it. You see, my grandfather had been in the Klan. I told you that he fought for Nathan Bedford Forrest, who formed the Klan, so my grandfather had been in the Klan and I always thought of it as something noble and grand and patriotic that had saved the white women of the South. I remember seeing the horrible movie called The Klansman . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Birth of A Nation.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Birth of A Nation. Oh, I thought that it was the most thrilling, dramatic and marvelous thing in the world when the Klan rode in there and rescued the poor white girl from the black soldier and all. You see, you can't imagine the contradictions in my life, the total contradictions. I had been surrounded by black men all my life. The old men at the plantation, I sat on their laps, you know and thought they were sweet, lovely old men. You know, the mailman, the yard man, the furnace man, I had been surrounded by black men all my life. Not one of them had ever been anything but kind and decent to me. I had never been afraid of a single one of them, it never crossed my mind that a black man would make an indecent attempts, or a white man either, for that point. I didn't know what they would do. I didn't know what rape was, I kept hearing about it, but I didn't know what rape was. I was scared to ask. These terrible inhibitions had been driven into me on sex and I was frightened to ask what rape was and I was scared that it would be revealed to be something that I didn't want to know. But then at the same time, I would go to see the Birth of A Nation and believe that the Klan was a great organization, very noble and wonderful and proud that my grandfather had been a member of it. So, the fact that they said Hugo Black was a member of the Klan, it didn't affect me at all. I used to go to Klan parades, they took place all the time. But I do remember one thing, I remember that they were all robed and booded but I also remember looking at the shoes and I thought to myself, "I wonder why they all have such worn-out, old, miserable-looking shoes on?" I had always thought of the Klan as the aristocrats riding off on white horses to save the pure white southern woman. I was surprised that the Klansmen that I saw looked so poor and their shoes were so terrible looking. You see, the Confederacy then was still very much alive. I would have to go to the Confederate reunions. They would meet in Birmingham usually and all the nice girls, from the age of about twelve to twenty were pages for the Confederate reunion. You would get all dressed up and all the old soldiers by that time were pretty old. They all had beards, it seemed to me, and they all had bushy mustaches and they all chewed tobacco and spit. You see, they were put up free in the nicest homes and hotels and these ladies that ran the UDC, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, were always great big stout ladies or very thin ladies, they had banners and flowers and big hats and we were all dressed up and were pages. All that I could see that we did was to let the old soldiers kiss us. Well, that was pretty horrible, because not only did they chew tobacco, but they were always given liquor to keep them going and so, they smelled and the wet tobacco juice, oh! It was disgusting. Well, I came home and told Mother that I wasn't going back and she said, "Well darling, they are heroes, they are old Confederate veterans." If some old lecherous man had kissed me, she would have thought it was terrible, but she thought it was perfectly all right to send me down there with these lecherous old men and let twenty of them hug me and kiss me.
CLIFFORD DURR:
They were heroes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They were heroes. Well, I got a terrible distaste for kissing, tobacco flavored and whiskey flavored. Oh, it was dreadful. But then, you know, we would ride in the parade and they would make speeches, the politicians would, about pure white southern womanhood and I believed it. I was pure white southern womanhood and all these men had died for me and the Confederate flag was flying just to save me. I got to thinking I was pretty hot stuff, to have all the war fought for me and this was a general theme, you see, that the war really was fought to save pure white southern womanhood.