“UDC –The Faith Conflict”

Blog Post-2: June 21, 2012 by J. Herrera

“UDC –The Faith Conflict”

After reading and gaining some background about the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy), it was interesting to discover how southern women used the outcome of the Civil War to rise up from the embers of defeat and “raised the stakes of the Lost Cause by making it a movement about vindication, as well as memorialization.[1]  The post Civil War period gave southern women (specifically women of the elite class) a glimpse to the importance of organizing themselves in order to provide assistance to their people affected by the Lost Cause. First on their list they would memorialize their fallen soldiers and vindicate their service to the Confederacy; whereby the UDC was formed; “on September 10, 1894, by founders Mrs. Caroline Meriweather Goodlett of Nashville, Tennessee and Mrs. Anna Davenport Raines of Georgia.” [2]

Although, the UDC’s objectives are admirable at first glance due their philanthropic work by preserving historical truths (according to the South), they provided education to perpetuate the Old South ideology, and of course Confederate patriotism was included. Their objectives sound admirable and worthy of support, UNITL the idea of “fighting to sustain white supremacy” [3] is mentioned and this completely changes the notion that “all men are created equal.” The idea that the UDC also promotes white supremacy is difficult to grasp especially since the organization also proclaims to be of the Christian faith. For example, UDC members would use Biblical analogies to enforce their faith and show allegiance to the Confederacy at the same time: “like Mary and Martha, whose faith never wavered and who paid homage to Jesus at his tomb, southern women had remained faithful to the Confederacy” [4] The fact that the UDC were women of faith and upheld Biblical truths is conflicting since God would not assign dominion of one man over another (in reference to slavery), so their promotion of white supremacy is disturbing overall.

However, on defense of the UDC, Cox explains: “former slave owners had done the world a service by providing their African slaves with the gift of Christianity” [5] (106).  In essence, the fact that slave owners were in part Christian missionaries “with civilizing power,”[6] the Christian message to slaves apparently had no bearing on the fact that their slaves were living basically in bondage to their masters.  On the one hand, reading about the UDC’s contributions after the war and their philanthropic work, this gave way to why the UDC increased exponentially in membership. According to Cox: “by the end of World War I, the organization climbed in membership of nearly 100,000 women” [7] Even today the UDC has a website to promote their efforts of yesterday. Once again, the white supremacy notion is difficult to except or understand when we live in the world’s greatest “melting pot.”

1 Karen L. Cox, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the reservation of Confederate Culture. Florida: University Press of Florida, 2003), 1.

[3] Cox,  2.

[4] Cox, 11.

[5] Cox, 106.

[6] Cox, 106

[7] Cox, 29

  1. drobnicker said:

    I can’t agree with you more! I was questioning the same argument. The whole part about teaching Christianity to slaves and then not practicing those principles is astonishing. In their eyes (UDC) I suppose just having them in the families as property was a Christian acknowledgment. What confuses me (and this was a discussion question I wrote down for class but didn’t read), was the fact that some of the ex-slaves believed that slavery was part of their own destiny. On page 320 of Blight’s book, Washington proclaims “Out of bondage they emerged Christians… from thier barbarous…fetishism…a childish way of looking at and explaining the world”. Washington’s view matched the white supemacy conceptof being inferior and holding the whites responsible for the progress of the Blacks. I believe Washington sold out. That is confusing! Also, some Black leaders believed in the millenial view “that slavery had been part of God’s design”.(322) refers to slavery as a “sacred drama” and that “God had ordained slavery, black Chritianity conversion, even American racism itself as a motivator, and he held interior peoples of Africa in readinesss “until the time arrived for the emmancipation of her children in the Western world.” I find this whole concept about the Christian values distorted in both races, and agree with the Consituition that “All men are created equal”.

    • Thanks for your comments. As someone in the class pointed out, the whole Lost Cause ideology is total hypocrisy when you think about how on the one hand they refused to basically “get over it” and become one as a nation. Then on the other hand they are huge on benevolence, but they turn around and proclaim they are the supreme race. I am still baffled by this notion.

  2. I happened to find the Cox book very interesting and what made it even better was how easy it was to read. The UDC is something that I never knew about but I’ve already shared the details and the book with several people in my family. The crazy thing for me to think about is how the Southern perspective of the war influenced the minds of African Americans in the region. I can’t remember where I read it but one of the books mentioned that eventually African Americans adopted the books involuntarily as they were passed down in later years. That makes me wonder…How did they feel about this perspective and was this effort enough to convince everyone over time?

  3. We know that for the most part slaves were kept illerate on plantations, but for those who worked has household slaves (and may have been considered part of the extended family), they were taught to read and write or for others they were secretly self-taught. Do you suppose African Americans were subtly “brain washed” over time by their masters dictating the books available in the household? Which of course, would be Confederate literature.

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