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Abstract

Virginia Military Institute is a state military school with significant historical ties to the Confederacy. As a result of this history, for over 100 years the school’s identity and many of its traditions have been deeply informed by the Lost Cause narrative, the set of beliefs that stated that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, that the South fought with honor, and that Black people were inherently inferior to whites. In 1968, the Institute was forced to integrate. Those early Black cadets who chose to attend VMI faced unequal and unequivocally racist treatment at the hands of white peers and alumni, as well as an administration clearly apathetic toward such occurrences. Over the course of roughly fifteen years, these Black cadets demanded fair treatment from their fellow cadets and the Institute at large for themselves and other members of Lexington’s Black community. They also forged their own traditions, looking to make VMI a space where they, and later Black cadets, could be represented and celebrated on their own terms.

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