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> Dear Friends, A copy of this sad notice was posted two weeks ago, but > much of it was truncated. Thanx to Jay Schaffner > <firstname.lastname@example.org> for posting and reposting it. Thanx to > Julian Bond for sending these pieces by Joan Browing, Patricia Sullivan > and the White House. > > Seth Wigderson > H-Labor Moderator - - - - - - - - > > From: Julian Bond <Julian_Bond@email.msn.com > > Re: a noble soul has passed on. > > - - - - - - - - - - - > > VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR, 1903-1999 by Joan C. Browning > > White women who publicly protested racial segregation in the South of > my youth were few enough that one could know, or at least know of, most > of them. By the 1960s, they enthusiastically supported the youth > rebellion that began with the sit-in movement and Freedom Rides. These > women were important role models. By their life and witness, they > proved that one could be white, southern, and female without being > racist. Though I saw her only a few times, Virginia Durr was prominent > among those white women who inspired me. I am remembering her today > because I learned that she died last night. > > Virginia Durr came to Charlottesville in the early 1990s, with her > Montgomery, Alabama, friend and sister activist Jo Anne Robinson. > Julian Bond had invited them to tell another generation about how the > Montgomery Bus Boycott actually started and succeeded. She was > gracious and witty and thoroughly committed to making ours a better > world then, as always. It was my last visit with her. > > When today's youth ask me why more southern white women didn't stand up > for racial justice, I use a quote on page 245 in her book, Outside the > Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr [The > University of Alabama Press, 1985, Simon & Schuster 1987]. > > "When I came here [Montgomery, Alabama, 1951], there were two groups of > United Church Women, one black and one white. > > A group of people in town decided to integrate the two groups. They got > together and formed an integrated prayer group. We used to meet and > pray and sing and hold hands and have a cup of tea afterward. We > always met in Negro churches. We grew to be about a hundred women, > black and white, from all over the state. > > The group stayed together all during the bad times until the last > meeting _ The head of the United Church Women in the South, Mrs. M. E. > Tilly from Atlanta, came to our meeting. People in Montgomery who were > fighting integration took all the license numbers of our cars at the > meeting. He published the names and telephone numbers and addresses of > everybody at the United Church Women meeting in his paper, Sheet > Lightning [Alabama Ku Klux Klan publication]. The women began to get > terrible calls at night and were harassed in other ways. That broke > the group up. We never met after that. The women became frightened > when their names were published. Even their husbands began getting > phone calls from people who threatened to stop doing business with them > if their wives went to any more integrated meetings. > > Several husbands took out notices in the papers disassociating > themselves from their own wives. One man disassociated himself from > his aunt, and another disassociated himself from his daughter. They > were scared of the repercussions of their business." > > Studs Terkel wrote in the Foreword to Outside the Magic Circle [page > xi]: Virginia Durr said it: "there were three ways for a well-brought > up young Southern white woman to go. > > She could be the actress, playing out the stereotype of the Southern > belle. Gracious to 'the colored help,' flirtatious to her powerful > father-in-law, and offering a sweet, winning smile to the world. In > short, going with the wind. > > If she had a spark of independence or worse, creativity, she could go > crazy on the dark, shadowy street traveled by more than one stunning > Southern belle. > > Or she could be the rebel. She could step outside the magic circle, > abandon privilege, and challenge this way of life. Ostracism, bruises > of all sorts, and defamation would be her lot. Her reward would be a > truly examined life. And a world she would otherwise never have known." > > It is the third road Virginia Durr traveled. > > Her long time friend and associate, Patricia Sullivan, and I discussed > Virginia Durr when we were together at the American Historical > Association meeting in Washington last month. Pat, another white woman > who took the third road, is editing Virginia's letters for publication. > Pat wrote *Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era* (The > University of North Carolina Press, 1996), a wonderful study of > progressives including Virginia Durr. Today, Pat Sullivan wrote the > following obituary. > > To Pat's obituary, let me say that in addition to her blood kin, > Virginia Foster Durr is survived by scores of people whose progressive > activism she encouraged. > > - - - - - - - - - - - - > > > Activist Virginia Foster Durr dies at 95 > Obituary written by Patricia Sullivan > > Virginia Foster Durr, long time civil rights activist, died in > Carlisle, Pennsylvania on February 24. She was 95 years old. Virginia > Durr was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended Wellesley College. > In 1933 she and her husband Clifford Durr moved to Washington, where he > joined the staff of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. They both > became ardent New Dealers. Their home on Seminary Hill in Alexandria, > Virginia was a popular gathering place for assorted New Deal Senators > and Representatives, labor organizers and civil rights activists. > > In 1938, Mrs. Durr was a founding member of the Southern Conference for > Human Welfare (SCHW), an interracial group that went on to challenge > racial segregation in the South. She was also a leader of the National > Committee to Abolish the Poll Tax. Mrs. Durr worked closely with > Eleanor Roosevelt in lobbying for legislation to abolish the poll tax, > a device that kept black and white southerners from voting. > > Mrs. Durr ran for the U.S. Senate from Virginia on the Progressive > Party ticket in 1948. At that time she said, "I believe in equal > rights for all citizens and I believe the tax money that is now going > for war and armaments and the militarization of our country could be > better used to give everyone in the United States a secure standard of > living." > > The Durrs returned to Alabama in 1951 and settled in Montgomery. They > joined the local branch of the NAACP, and became acquainted with local > civil rights activists. After Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, Mrs. > Durr and her husband Clifford accompanied civil rights leader E.D. > Nixon to bail Mrs. Parks out of jail. The Durrs actively supported the > Montgomery bus boycott, and Clifford Durr aided in the case that > ultimately led to the Supreme Court ruling barring segregation on > Montgomery's busses. > > During the early 1960s, the Durrs housed organizers from the Student > Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights > organizers travelling in the Deep South. Mrs. Durr likened it to > "running a station on the Underground Railroad." Without the students, > she wrote, the movement "might have just died on the vine." > > Mrs. Durr remained active in state and local politics until her early > nineties, and spoke frequently around the country at colleges, to > community groups and at civil rights commemorations. She received > honorary degrees from Wellesley College, Emory University, and the > University of Alabama. In 1985, she published her autobiography, > "Outside the Magic Circle." For the past twenty-five years, she has > spent the summers on Martha's Vineyard with her daughter and son in > law, Lucy and Sheldon Hackney. > > Clifford Durr died in 1975. Survivors include four daughters, Ann Durr > Lyon of Harrisburg, Pa., Lucy Durr Hackney of Philadelphia, Virginia > Foster Durr of Sweden, Maine, and Lulah Durr Colan of Milwaukee; 11 > grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. There will be a memorial > service in Montgomery, Alabama on Sunday, February 28. > > In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Alabama ETV Foundation, > Alabama Public Television/ Durr Documentary Project, 1255 Madison > Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 26107. (checks made payable to Alabama ETV > Foundation). > > - - - - - - - - - - > > > Sidebar: Statement by President & Mrs. Clinton > The White House Office of the Press Secretary February 24, 1999 > > Statement by the President Hillary and I are deeply saddened to hear of > the death of Virginia Foster Durr. Throughout this century, America's > long march towards freedom and justice has been the achievement of > countless Americans - black and white - who risked their lives to lead > us closer to our most cherished ideals. A white woman born to > privilege in the Deep South, Mrs. Durr refused to turn a blind eye to > racism and intolerance in our society. Her courage and steely > conviction in the earliest days of the civil rights movement helped > change this nation forever. Hillary and I feel honored to have known > and been inspired by a truly great American. Our thoughts and prayers > are with her friends and family. > > > ************************************************** > This announcement has been posted by H-ANNOUNCE, > a service of H-Net, Michigan State University. > List archive and information about how to post: > http://www.h-net.msu.edu/events/announce.html > **************************************************