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Virginia Foster Durr

Virginia Foster Durr

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Virginia Foster Durr (August 6, 1903 - February 24, 1999) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and a white civil rights activist and lobbyist. She was married to lawyer Clifford Durr
Clifford Durr
Clifford Durr was an Alabama lawyer who played an important role in defending activists and others accused of disloyalty during the New Deal and McCarthy eras and who represented Rosa Parks in her challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinance requiring the segregation of passengers on buses...

, who shared her ideals, was close friends with Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement"....

 and Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

, and was sister-in-law (through her sister's marriage) to and good friends with Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugo Black
Hugo Black
Hugo Lafayette Black was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party, Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme...

 who sat on many crucial civil rights cases.

Early life to New Deal


She was raised in Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. According to the 2010 United States Census, Birmingham had a population of 212,237. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S...

 and attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 until she had to leave during her junior year due to financial difficulties. After returning to Birmingham, she met her future husband, the attorney and Rhodes Scholar Clifford Durr
Clifford Durr
Clifford Durr was an Alabama lawyer who played an important role in defending activists and others accused of disloyalty during the New Deal and McCarthy eras and who represented Rosa Parks in her challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinance requiring the segregation of passengers on buses...

. In 1933 she moved with her husband to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, where they became New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

ers. While her husband was working for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation
Reconstruction Finance Corporation
The Reconstruction Finance Corporation was an independent agency of the United States government, established and chartered by the US Congress in 1932, Act of January 22, 1932, c. 8, 47 Stat. 5, during the administration of President Herbert Hoover. It was modeled after the War Finance Corporation...

, Durr joined the Woman’s National Democratic Club. In 1938, she was one of the founding members of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW), an interracial group aimed at lessening segregation in the Southern United States. Working together with First Lady
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

, she lobbied for legislation to abolish the poll tax
Poll tax
A poll tax is a tax of a portioned, fixed amount per individual in accordance with the census . When a corvée is commuted for cash payment, in effect it becomes a poll tax...

.

Progressive Party candidate


Quote from an obituary written by Patricia Sullivan,


"Mrs. Durr ran for the U.S. Senate from Virginia on the Progressive
Progressive Party (United States, 1948)
The United States Progressive Party of 1948 was a left-wing political party that ran former Vice President Henry A. Wallace of Iowa for president and U.S. Senator Glen H. Taylor of Idaho for vice president in 1948.-Foundation:...

 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."

Her opponents were Democrat
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Absalom Willis Robertson
Absalom Willis Robertson
Absalom Willis Robertson was an American lawyer and Democratic Party politician from Lexington, Virginia. Also known as A. Willis Robertson, he represented Virginia in both the U.S...

, Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 Robert H. Woods, Independent Howard Carwile
Howard Carwile
Howard Hearnes Carwile was an American lawyer and politician.-Family:Howard Carwile was born in Charlotte County, Virginia, to parents Willis Early Carwile...

 & Socialist Clarke T. Robbe.

Return to Montgomery


In 1951 she returned with her husband to Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

, where she became acquainted with local civil rights activists. A group of people in her town arranged to have integrated
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 church meetings of black and white women. There was a lot of opposition against the integrated meetings, from the locals as well as from within the church. In her autobiography, Mrs. Durr wrote how the head of the United Church Women in the South (UCWS, an integration group) came to one of the meetings. Opponents to the meeting took the license plate numbers from the cars and published them in an Alabama Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

 magazine. The women of the UCWS received harassing phone calls. Some had family members who publicly distanced themselves from their activities, because it was bad for business. As a result, the women became too afraid to continue their meetings. In December 1955, Virginia and her husband, along with E.D. Nixon, bailed Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement"....

 out of jail after she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a white person.

Virginia Foster Durr was a supporter of the sit-in movement and Freedom Rides. Virginia and her husband offered sleeping space to students coming from the North to protest. Her husband, with whom she had five children, died in 1975. Mrs. Durr remained active in state and local politics until she was in her nineties. In 1985 she published her autobiography, "Outside the Magic Circle." She continued being politically active until a few years before her death on February 24, 1999 at the age of 95. Upon hearing of Durr's death, Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement"....

 said Durr's "upbringing of privilege did not prohibit her from wanting equality for all people. She was a lady and a scholar, and I will miss her."

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