UVA and the KKK

Jun 28, 2017

The University of Virginia has issued a statement condemning the Ku Klux Klan and urging students, faculty and staff to avoid a rally the group plans in Charlottesville next month, but one professor is rejecting that call, while  noting that UVA  once accepted the offer of a thousand dollars from the KKK.  

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan is asking  members of the UVA community to stay clear of the Klan’s rally on July 8th in Charlottesville, but Professor Jalane Schmidt isn’t buying it.

“I study and teach about African-American history, and for me it’s important to be there so that I can look my children and grandchildren in the face and say, ‘Yes, I faced these demons of our collective history,’” she explains.

Schmidt argues that ignoring the Klan and other extreme hate groups will not make them go away.

UVA Professor Jalane Schmidt rejects a call to "ignore" the KKK rally set for July 8 in Charlottesville.
Credit University of Virginia

“You shouldn’t be able to plan a torch rally that terrorizes your community one night, and then expect to go out with your buddies and drink a beer the next and just pass through police society without comment.  This is precisely what happened in the 19-teens and 20’s – this ‘ignore them’ strategy.”

The Charlottesville Klan was founded 96 years ago today, and Schmidt says the group grew stronger as polite society failed to reject its members.  By 1921, the KKK felt comfortable enough to pledge $1,000 to the University of Virginia’s Gymnasium Fund.   The school’s president wrote a note of “hearty thanks for this generosity and good will.  Faithfully Yours, E.A. Alderman.”

Professor Schmidt thinks UVA should acknowledge its mistake in accepting that donation and take a stronger stand against the modern-day Klan.  

Her views are outlined in greater detail in an essay she recently published called Excuse me, America, your house is on fire ​