Article by: Elizabeth R. Varon, [email protected]


Why did Charlottesville’s white citizens choose to erect a statue to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in 1924 – nearly 60 years after the Civil War? One clue can be found in the personal papers of Judge R.T.W. Duke Jr., held at the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Duke, who literally presided over the Lee and Jackson monument dedication ceremonies as the designated “chair” of each event, was a fixture at Confederate Memorial Day celebrations and monument dedications all across Virginia in the early 20th century, known for his fiery defense of slavery, and attacks on emancipation and Reconstruction. The record of Duke’s public role as a Confederate memorialist, when read together with his extensive private diaries and memoirs, provides a window into the “Lost Cause” creed – and into the University’s role in promulgating it.


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