“You Can’t Change History By Moving a Rock”: Gender, Race, and the Cultural Politics of Confederate Memorialization

  • LeeAnn Whites


On August 16, 1974, in the depths of the Missouri summer heat, and when most university students were far from campus, the city of Columbia quietly removed a five-and-a-half-ton Confederate Memorial from the center of the University of Missouri campus. Placing the pink granite boulder on a flat bed truck trailer, workers transported it to an outlying weed-infested field in a city park. There it stood, its original 1935 bronze plaque of dedication to the “valor and patriotism of Confederate Soldiers of Boone County,” virtually obscured by the spray paint and graffiti of a younger generation of students.1 This ignominious end was hardly the future that the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy envisioned for the Rock when they first unveiled it with great pomp and ceremony some 40 years earlier. With their eyes trained firmly on the past, as their motto, “lest we forget,” would indicate, the women of the UDC hoped that the Rock would continue to serve to bind the generations that followed them to a memory of what was for them still, even in the early twentieth century, a lived experience of the Civil War and Civil War loss.2


White Woman Black Student African American Student White Household Guerilla Warfare 
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  1. 2.
    On the history of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, see Karen L. Cox, Dixies’ Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (Gainesville, Florida, University Press of Florida, 2003)Google Scholar
  2. Mary B. Poppenheim et al., The History of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Raleigh, NC, Edwards Broughton Company, 1925).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On the role of monuments and memorialization more generally in mediating contemporary social conflicts see, David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (New York, Belknap Press, 2001)Google Scholar
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  5. 5.
    On the Ladies Memorial Association, see Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause and the Emergence of the New South, 1865–1913 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1987), 36–46.Google Scholar
  6. LeeAnn Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender (Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia, 1995), 160–198Google Scholar
  7. Catherine Bishir, “A Strong Force of Ladies: Women, Politics and Confederate Memorial Associations in Nineteenth Century Raleigh,” North Carolina Historical Review, 77, no. 4 (October 2000): 455–491.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Mary Tucker Clipping, Scrapbook #1, United Daughters of the Confederacy Collection, John S. Marmaduke Chapter. On guerilla warfare in Columbia, see History of Boone County, Missouri, William Switzler, comp. (St. Louis, 1882), 43–53; and Thomas Prather, “Unconditional Surrender: The Civil War at the University of Missouri-Columbia, 1860–1865,” April 10, 1989, paper in the possession of the Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Missouri. On guerilla war in Missouri see, Gerald Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War (New York, Oxford University Press), 1989Google Scholar
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  12. 15.
    On the African American experience in Missouri, see Lorenzo Greene, Gary R. Kremer, Antonio Holland, Missouris’ Black Heritage (Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    For a further discussion of the particular experience of black slave women in the Civil War, see Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family From Slavery to the Present (New York, Basic Books, 1985)Google Scholar
  14. Leslie Schwalm, “A Hard Fight For We”: Womens’ Transition of From Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    Grenz, “The Black Community in Boone County,” 30–37. The historical work that perhaps best reflects this white cultural hegemony is the only monograph on slavery in the state, Harrison A. Trexler, Slavery in Missouri, 1804–1865 (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1914).Google Scholar

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© LeeAnn Whites 2005

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  • LeeAnn Whites

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