A Black woman who worked for 12 years as a receptionist at Alabama’s state-run museum of the Confederacy has filed a racial discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission over her treatment while working there.
62-year-old Evelyn England told the Associated Press that she was often treated like as much of a curiosity while working inside the First White House of the Confederacy as were the various artifacts on display, such as the belongings of Jefferson Davis’ family. At one point before she retired this month, she was suspended for refusing to sign a performance evaluation. It’s unclear when her EEOC complaint was filed.
What is clear is that her experience was probably as unpleasant as one would expect for a Black woman working in a publicly-funded shrine to a traitorous, failed nation-state that attempted to violently secede from the United States in order to maintain the racist institution of chattel slavery.
Black people, she told the AP, questioned why she worked there, while white visitors to the museum seemed to relish a safe space that didn’t challenge their comforting–and inaccurate–views of history.
From the Associated Press
In conversations with visitors, England said she would sometimes use questions and humor to try to get them to see a different point of view.
When one person maintained that secession was only about preserving states’ rights — a view that had long been taught to southerners as the root cause of the Civil War instead of slavery — she responded, “But did everyone have the same rights?”
“You love the Confederacy for what you think it stood for: Your rights,” she would think. “What were they fighting about? Some would say states’ rights. I have a problem with your solution of states’ rights because all individuals in that state didn’t have the same rights.”
One day, an older white woman said “Oh, the South will rise!” to no one in particular as she browsed in the gift shop, where the merchandise includes books, stickers of the first Confederate flag and children’s toys including teddy bears in Confederate and Union uniforms. When the woman turned around to put more items on the counter, England asked her, “What are you rising from?”
She said the woman didn’t reply. “If looks could kill I’d be a dead woman,” England said.
Again: this happened at a museum funded by taxpayers. Specifically, it’s operated by the Alabama Department of Finance although the contents are technically owned by a group called the White House Association, which describes itself as “the oldest historic preservation organization in the State of Alabama,” and one of the oldest in the country dedicated to the upkeep of a museum.
It shouldn’t be confused with the White House Historical Association, which collects and displays historical artifacts from the actual White House.