The SCV, the UDC, the KKK, and the CBF

Sometimes I think it is best to take people at their word and then ask them to act on it.

I’m well aware that members of both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy are proud of the Confederate Battle Flag.  I may not share their feelings, but they don’t have to share mine, either.  I’m also aware that the SCV and other organizations declare that their philosophy is “heritage, not hate.”

So what do you think the SCV will do this Saturday if members of the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens show up as the SCV observes the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Confederacy?  According to “Hatewatch,” prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Expect to see the SCV joined by members of local hate groups active in the neo-Confederate movement, in particular members of the racist League of the South, which believes that slavery is “God-ordained” and that “Anglo-Celts” should be put in charge of an independent South, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group that argues that black people are “a retrograde species of humanity.”

Here’s an excellent chance for the SCV to prove to all of us that it means what it says about “heritage, not hate.”

Much the same thing can be said for the KKK’s use of the CBF.  Ironically, both the KKK and the opponents of the CBF see that flag as symbolizing white supremacy.  Members of the SCV and UDC claim the CBF (and the Confederacy) represents something different.  I know some members of these organizations who truly despise the KKK and other hate groups, and deplore how those groups have captured the CBF for their own purposes.  You would think that any association of any symbol of Confederate heritage with a hate group would be subject to being characterized as a heritage violation.  Yet, as we’ve just seen in Mississippi, perhaps the SCV erred given its position by asking the state to celebrate Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest with a license plate.  Surely it would be difficult to reconcile “heritage not hate” with celebrating a man who had much to do with creating a heritage of hate.

I understand that many members of the SCV and UDC are angry that the KKK has appropriated the CBF.  I’m also well aware that the KKK has also used the flag of the United States at rallies.  In fact, I’ve heard these arguments for years.  Fair enough.

I’m just asking people to be as good as their word.

11 thoughts on “The SCV, the UDC, the KKK, and the CBF

  1. Andy Hall February 17, 2011 / 12:50 pm

    Excellent post, reflecting the complexity of the CBF, Confederate heritage groups and the Klan. I’ve seen nothing that so graphically reflects the intersection of these groups’ divergent interests in modern America — and the difficulty outsiders have in sorting them out — than this photo essay on a Klan rally in Pulaski, Tennessee in honor of Forrest, now heralded with Lee and Jackson as one of the highest-profile Confederates of them all. CBFs are all over, sometimes multiple examples in a single image, and it’s hard to know what they each symbolize. The Confederacy? The Klan? Forrest the cavalryman? Forrest the Klansman? White supremacy? Defense of the South? All of those? Something else entirely? Are any of these people also SCV or UDC members?

    These are hard questions without easy answers. Continually falling back on the “heritage, not hate” mantra just doesn’t cut it. Until heritage groups acknowledge that others’ objections to the CBF are real, and based on life-as-lived rather than some misappreciation of history, the SCV, UDC and similar organizations just don’t have credibility on the issue.

    • JM Rudy February 17, 2011 / 2:51 pm


      Thanks for the link to the Life photo series. Powerful and frightening images, especially those of children whose minds are clouded before they get the chance to live out in the world. It’s one thing to be old and hateful. It’s quite another to have your parents foist their views on you without allowing you to question or form an understanding of what life truly is, making you young and hateful.

      I am heartened by the fact that the “You Might Also Like…” suggestions are, “Civil Rights: Rare Photos,” “Civil Rights: The Vote,” and, “Civil Rights: Rev. Ralph Abernathy.”

      • Andy Hall February 17, 2011 / 4:29 pm

        Probably shouldn’t have asked that last question; it’s a legitimate question, but also incendiary, and maybe not especially helpful. Heat, not light, etc.

        But in trying to distance themselves from hate groups, and the Klan specifically, Confederate heritage groups conveniently overlook that for a long time, there was a close affiliation. A century ago, when there actually were Confederate veterans still living and active, publications like the Confederate Veteran magazine spoke in glowing terms of the Reconstruction-era Klan, and many old Confederates were willing, even proud, to publicly acknowledge their membership in it. Membership in that original Klan was seen by many veterans as a natural extension of their service in the Confederate army between 1861 and 1865. The UCV, UDC and the Klan have a long history of mutual recognition and respect, one that lasted at least as long as the original veterans themselves did.

        Rightly or not, those odious fools in the pictures from Pulaski in 2009 see themselves as the inheritors of the legacy of that original Klan, of Nathan Bedford Forrest, of Confederate veterans, and of the Confederacy itself. Forrest was not one of the original six Founders of the Klan at Pulaski, but he’s the one they celebrate — both for his involvement in that organization and his general bad-assery in the saddle. Modern Confederate heritage groups know this, and want to carefully excise their veneration of Forrest and the Confederate Battle Flag from the Klan’s use and veneration of those same emblems. But in truth, at least to a degree, both groups look at those symbols and see the same thing.

        And that’s a problem that slogans and official denials cannot fix.

  2. Kristilyn February 17, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    Good observations! I always learn when I read your writing.

    “I understand that many members of the SCV and UDC are angry that the KKK has appropriated the CBF.”
    It’s like reading police code. Next time, can you make a legend/key so I can keep up. I am not a Civil War Encyclopedia like you….yet…:)

  3. David Corbett February 17, 2011 / 7:54 pm

    It is unfortunate for the memory of Confederate veterans that the SCV seems to be the organization less like the gentlemanly Lee and more like the unpolished Forrest.
    Gloria filiorum patres. Honorable actions would be the best tribute.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 17, 2011 / 8:30 pm

      it seems to me that perhaps those SCV members who are really into honoring the service of their ancestors might consider the Military Order of the Stars and Bars instead.

      • Charles Lovejoy February 17, 2011 / 9:33 pm

        That is one of the few organizations I have ever joined “the Military Order of the Stars and Bars “. Don’t know my status, I never went to a meeting. I had a friend I worked with that was a direct descendant of Gen Pierce M. B. Young and he found out I had a Great Grandfather in Philips Legion cav and one in the 10th Confederate cav. He gave me the paper work and I joined. I had planed to work with a local group to help save the Lovejoy’s station battlefield from wal-mart , but it was to no avail.

      • Brooks D. Simpson February 17, 2011 / 11:48 pm

        Read the blog tomorrow, Charles. You’ll understand why. 🙂

      • Ironclad June 2, 2012 / 4:53 am

        I am a past member of the MOSB and they seem more interested in awarding each other medals and patting each other on the back more than anything else

  4. Dick Stanley February 21, 2011 / 3:56 pm

    Problem with the MOSB is your Confederate ancestor must have been a commissioned officer (sergeants, even sergeant majors, aren’t eligible).

    Ancestors who were privates, like mine, and their descendants are not eligible.

    That’s the main reason I joined the SCV, so his name and unit would be additionally remembered. I’ve never been interested in their politics, and they’ve never insisted that I toe any political line.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 21, 2011 / 6:30 pm

      Thanks for updating me on the MOSB. My argument would be that leadership is not representative of membership, and the SCV’s not alone in that regard. That’s why I think that some people who strike out at the SCV should be more specific, because they paint with far too broad a brush. Then again, I venture that recent struggles over leadership and direction have involved those issues. When those disputes were going on, people were upset that I didn’t want to get involved in an internal struggle. I replied that I thought it was up to the SCV and its members to decide their own direction. I might respond to the direction they took, but it is the business of the organization’s members, not me, as to what it decides to do.

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