University of Virginia to use 1921 KKK pledge to pay medical bills of people hurt by supremacists

Washington Post

The University of Virginia will give money to help pay the medical expenses of people injured during clashes with white supremacists in Charlottesville last month, in an amount equivalent to money that was pledged to the university by the Ku Klux Klan in 1921.

University President Teresa Sullivan spoke to the school's Board of Visitors on Thursday about safety, the university's core values and the ongoing examination of its complicated history in the wake of the violent confrontations with white supremacists.

Hundreds of people marched through the campus on Aug. 11 carrying torches, shouting racial slurs and fighting with counterprotesters at a statue of the school's founder, Thomas Jefferson. The next day, the conflict turned deadly when a man drove into a crowd of people protesting a planned white-supremacist rally, killing one woman and injuring 19. Two police officers died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the day's demonstrations.

The violence came at a time when the university, which is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial, was delving into some of the more difficult aspects of its history, including an ongoing commission on slavery, a planned memorial to enslaved workers on campus, and other commemorations.

On Thursday, Sullivan addressed a gift that was pledged to the university by the KKK in 1921. She said the university's then-president acknowledged the pledge, but the university has no evidence it was ever paid.

"We're going to acknowledge the pledge," she said in prepared remarks to the board, "and we're going do so in a way that would be as disagreeable as possible for any remnants of the KKK who may be watching.

"That $1,000 pledge, if inflated to today's dollars, would be worth about $12,400. With that number in mind, I have allocated $12,500 from private sources to the 'Charlottesville Patient Support Fund,' which is managed by the UVA Health Foundation, to pay medical expenses for people who were injured during the violence in August. Any leftover funds will support care for other members of our community.

"In other words, we are allocating that century-old pledge from white supremacists to heal the wounds inflicted by the dying vestiges of white supremacy that struck Charlottesville last month. I hope any remaining members of the KKK will appreciate the irony."

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