A monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis was unveiled in Richmond, Virginia—once the Confederacy’s capital city—in June 1907. Along with other Confederate memorials on Monument Avenue, it reflected the Lost Cause rewriting of the South’s past. In this false version of history, slavery was a benign institution, the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, the North won because it had more men and more money but the South was morally superior. Reconstruction was deemed a failure and understood as a time of “Negro rule,” when African Americans had proved incapable of properly exercising their political rights. Reconstruction, not slavery, was blamed for embittering Southern race relations.
These beliefs glorified the Confederacy, and they took hold among many white Americans. The statues along Monument Avenue, and similar memorials throughout the South, honored the virtue and sacrifice of whites who fought to protect slavery, not Black people who suffered under it. White women often led the fundraising campaigns that made it possible to build these memorials.
When the Jefferson Davis memorial was unveiled in a massive five-day celebration, Davis’s statue was almost within reach of admirers on the ground. But atop a soaring column behind him stood a female figure known as the Vindicatrix, also called Miss Confederacy. “Vindicatrix” derived from the Confederate motto, Deo Vindice, which is translated as “With God As Our Protector” or “Under God As Our Vindicator.” She represented not only idealized Southern womanhood but the conviction that the Confederacy would be vindicated, cleared of blame for slavery and the war.