24 Mar 2023

1947: University of Virginia vs University of Pennsylvania Football Game, Modern Day Parable

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: American Empire, Black History, Culture, Discipleship, Football, Mission, Politics, Race Relations
Strom Thurmond at Dixiecrat Convention in Birmingham, 1948

The Game

On November 9, 1946 the Virginia Cavaliers, located in Charlottesville, traveled north of the “Mason-Dixon” line to Princeton, New Jersey to face the Princeton Tigers on the gridiron. In an unexpected turn of events the Cavaliers prevailed and defeated the Tigers on their home field 20-6. A large contingent of fans had traveled with the team to New Jersey.

In the excitement of the surprising win a wave of “inebriated [battle] flag-waving” fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts of “the Yankees.” It was quite a scene with Confederate flags running around the field in New Jersey.

Some felt this behavior was embarrassing to the University of Virginia. In fact, it was editorialized in several newspapers that the sight of the Confederate flag, and associated behavior, reflected poorly upon the South.

So when Virginia was to travel to the University of Pennsylvania the following year on November 8, 1947, numerous papers, in the North and in Virginia, urged fans to leave the flag at home. The Virginia papers had different reasons than Pennsylvania papers but they still counseled not bringing the battle flag to Philadelphia to meet the Quakers.

No law was promulgated.

No rule mandated.

Dixiecrat Presidential Convention, Birmingham, 1948

Just a simple request by people who were actually fans of the Confederate flag. They were worried conduct, such as occurred at Princeton, would make the flag look bad and discredit the South. So they urged not bringing the flag to a Northern university.

What was the result?

Museum of the Confederacy historian, James Coski notes that all hell broke loose. There was a “rush on Confederate flags in Charlottesville.” And a “Confederate color guard” ceremony planned for the game. No one was going to tell them they could not proudly wave “the Confederate flag.” The same papers subsequently reported “the largest concentration of southerners in Pennsylvania since Gettysburg.” All with the Confederate flag. They came to protest … but Virginia lost the contest 19-7. There was no swarm of battle flags attacking the Yankee goal post. Just a sea of battle flags in the stands.

Why? What was this About?

What brought this about? If we do any reading in American history from essentially the close of World War I to the 1970s a phrase is nearly ubiquitous … Communism. Especially in southern quarters.

In the South, the call for Civil Rights was almost universally denoted, Communism. To resist an anti-Southern, Communist, plot one had to storm Princeton to resist communist “totalitarianism.” Civil Rights was literally “totalitarianism” (not my word but theirs). And there was, even following World War II, plenty of “agitation” for simple racial justice by over a million black men (and women) veterans of that war. President Harry Truman had been considering desegregating the US military and would do so with Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. The repercussions ran like a tidal wave through the South.

What began as a simple request to protect the “honor” of the Battle Flag (in the Southern newspapers view), Virginians sniffed a nefarious plot to steal their “southern way of life” (a euphemism for white way of life). Only Communism could promote Civil Rights and ask us to leave the flag (and not get drunk and tear down the goal posts as we give the Rebel Yell).

Not quite a year later in direct response to Truman’s desegregating the American military, Strom Thurmond, ran as the Dixiecrat candidate for President. The Dixiecrats broke off from the Democratic Party over the issue of Civil Rights in 1948. Harry S. Truman was the Democratic nominee for re-election in 1948. The Dixiecrats held their party convention in Birmingham, Alabama.

Strom Thurmond, would deliver a powerful speech in Birmingham, Alabama as he accepted the nomination for President. He promised he would resist the iniquitous plot of communism. He bellowed, surrounded by those same Confederate battle flags, his resistance to “tyranny” (amazing what a simple request can do!).

[T]here’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the negro race into our theaters, our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.

Read that again.


A candidate for the Presidency of the United States said those words in his acceptance speech! Thurmond made this speech when he thought America was great, but a plot was afoot!

When we look back upon 1946, 1947, and 1948, a football game and a political convention, it is almost like looking in the mirror.




University of Alabama Professor, Kari Frederickson, sheds great light on our current situation

Charlottesville is where the infamous Unite the Right rally took place August 11-12, 2017. A city became engulfed in Nazis, Sons of Confederate Veterans, various alt-right groups with thousands of Battle flags. The violence there was not merely tearing down a goal post. Rather cars ramming into people. We have seen the images, heard the rhetoric and the defenders of supposedly “good people on both sides.”

Today we have the same shouts of “Marxism/Communist” plots (you gotta be a communist to believe black folks are equal you know). We have the same conspiracy theories. We have the same racist worship of the Confederate flag. We have people who are thoroughly partisan but not many Cross-bearers.

Strom Thurmond would permanently leave the Democratic Party in 1964 and join the Republican Party. He led the vast majority of the Dixiecrats into the modern “reborn” Republican Party. Today the Republican Party is the party of the Confederate Battle flag.

But for all of today’s faults though, and there are plenty, I think America is Greater today than in 1947 and 1948.

See Also on this Subject

The Confederate Flag and the Nation for which it Stands

Worth Reading related to this Blog

James Conski, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem

Christopher C. Nehls, “Flag-Waving Wahoos. Confederate Symbols at the University of Virginia, 1941-1951,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 110.4 (2002), 461-488.

2 Responses to “1947: University of Virginia vs University of Pennsylvania Football Game, Modern Day Parable”

  1. JT Says:

    Bobby, do you mind a small dose of gentle pushback?
    You have often shared with us in your blogs your readings of history, whether religious works or secular writings. Sometimes controversial. Sometimes sounding a bit biased in one direction or another. Always interesting and thought provoking. Always sincere.

    No doubt with respect to racism in the USA our history has been ugly. Unfortunately racism is still with us today, as is poverty, child sacrifice, and many other abominations. Historically, it was a one way street – whites abusing blacks. Blacks were not permitted to stand up for themselves or rebel. To do so meant punishment up to and including death. However, today racism is pernicious from a perspective that you fail to address. It is no longer one-sided, whites abusing blacks. Today, blacks exhibit racism and violence against whites (and others) and it is not merely incidental.

    I find no great fault with your blog here. But I would like to note that some of your comments seemed incomplete. Yes, some people have re-kindled the use of “communism” for their selfish purposes. But you didn’t even hint that communism, as a political instrument for controlling human beings, is REAL and it is alive. (The racists do not “own” it.)

    Your presentation here is as if it seemingly only exists for selfish and evil uses by our modern, in-the-minority-white racists, and it is an imbalanced portrayal, IMHO. I could, but will not, specifically name prominent and numerous yard signs, highway billboards, that have dotted our landscape in recent years, proclaiming that a certain race, and only that race, “matters”. And, the millions and millions of $ donated to a certain, incorporated entity using that particular name. The problem was not the signs or the millions donated. I posit it did not help fight racism; it promoted it.

    Poverty has been with mankind forever. Racism and its related forms of abuse have been with mankind since his beginning too. White racism against our lovely black population in America was/is an abomination. Now, we have black racism added to it. Our nation is disintegrating right before our very eyes. I see blog categories on “Race Relations” and “Black History”. No category of “Abortion” about the millions of children sacrificed on the pagan alter of politics – and the attending comments that could describe the spiritual and theological blight. Millions of black babies murdered – being condoned today – by both white and black “racists”.

    Also, surely you are aware that, among other things, the pendulum-swinging, reactionary pushback against “white supremacy” includes white people in our workplaces being forced to take “sensitivity” training and in some cases pressured to “repent” of the sins of their racist forefathers, and listen to how they, by virtue of the color of their skin, are “guilty” of “white privilege” and pressured to apologize. I’ve loved reading your blogs wherein you informed us about “prejudice” within our churches, and the spiritual blight associated with it. But I’ve struggled to perceive what you’ve really intended for us to understand in this blog.

    It can be dangerous and it’s politically incorrect to talk about black racism, yet it exists. Is there not a way to address all racism in a balanced, loving, scriptural and complete manner? Am I being unfair? Have I missed your point? Or, are you purposely silent about other facets of communism, racism, child sacrifice, etc?

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      JT. Always good to have your comment and push back. I begin by suggesting that you read my blog, You Sound Like a Racist, An Autobiographical Moment, here: https://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2019/10/31/you-sound-like-a-racist-an-autobiographical-moment/

      While I will accept the notion that some of my blogs will be “controversial” with some readers. But that does not make them any less truthful. From long experience they are controversial with those who have a certain rose tinted view of US history and tend to conflate the kingdom of God into American patriotism.

      I will gently push back on the “bias” idea as well. And hopefully as graciously as your initial push.

      Everyone has a “point of view” of course. But I have no conscious bias toward any political party (I reject them all). I had a very different point of view for many years, the one I grew up with. But that pov was not based upon real knowledge of the history of America. I would argue that my point of view has come to be my view through twenty-eight years of deep study (sometimes painful!) and ministry in integrated congregations and listening to people of color (especially African American and Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters). If I am to err though I will err on the side of the justice and righteousness on the side of the poor, aliens, the least of these. Some one once said that God has a “preferential option” for the least of these. I will lean that way 😉

      Black Lives Matter is a flash point for some white Americans. Here in the Bay I know many many of my brothers and sisters of color, faithful disciples of Christ, who are involved and have been involved in it. I walked with many of them in ’20/21 through Oakland, Berkeley and even here in Antioch. It is a serious misunderstanding to say that they believe or say they are “proclaiming that a certain race, and only that race, “matters””[.] This is a talking point that is very wrong. Black Lives MATTER simply states (with conviction) that in the face of history that says otherwise, black life MATTERS. (emphasis not shouting).

      Black Life has never mattered in the United States. That is not exaggeration. We have slaughtered entire communities (i.e. Colfax; Greenwood/Tulsa; Rosewood; Atlanta; etc, etc). We have lynched tens of thousands and made postcards out of them to mail as mementos to friends and family. We systematically excluded them (by law) from places to live (“racial covenants”) as in the creation of the modern American suburb (Levittowns, etc). We created “Sundown” towns across this nation, thousands of them, where a black man, woman or child literally took their lives into the hands of the devil if they were found in the town limits after sundown. We haven’t even touched the hem of the garment. Several years ago at the congregation I preached for in Tucson, we had a discussion of police brutality (my son in law is a cop, I have no axe to grind against cops). Most of the white folks (men and women) believed it was pure nonsense. So we did a survey of the black and brown (a good portion of the church) how many had had a “negative” encounter with police. The answer was almost 100%. All of them had had “the talk” with their sons (and frequently with their daughters). A few shared their stories. We could say, they are just lying. But that did not seem like an option. I point to Don McLaughlin’s discussion on White Privilege and the police with his son again.

      A while back I wrote about Black Lives Matter through the lens of Martin Luther King Jr: See here: King: Violence, Black Power, Black Lives Matter and the Real Prophet: https://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2022/01/28/king-violence-black-power-black-lives-matter-and-the-real-prophet/

      Racism and mere prejudice are not the same thing. Are there people of color who are prejudiced? Surely. Do people of color (black/brown) in the USA have what is called “racism?” No. Racism is prejudice + power. A black person’s “prejudice” has never impacted the social order for any white american. That you might find a black or brown person who has ANGER toward white people because of the HISTORY (emphasis not shouting) they have lived in and continue to do so is also not the same as “racism.” To use a rather crude analogy but I hope it works: If a man beats an animal (a dog/cat) that animal will either eventually strike back or die literally. The sociological dynamics are almost inescapable. On Racism vs “Anger/Rage” see Encountering Malcolm X: Challenge to White Christianity: https://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2020/06/24/encountering-malcolm-x-challenge-to-white-christianity/

      I do not believe you ought to be “forced” to repent. But communal repentance is a very biblical practice and those whose allegiance is the kingdom of God have been known to embrace it. But repentance cannot be forced. It can be genuine or fake but not forced.

      On Communism (as an ism) is no more controlling and dangerous than Capitalism (as an ism). Communism is not a synonym for “totalitarianism” though many equate the two. And Capitalism is not God’s way of economy either. It is difficult to square Jubilee with Capitalism but it also difficult to square Communism with some of the Bible too. But as I remind some of my friends (who sometimes seem to believe that the way American Christians (white ones anyway) believe is, how all Christians do or should) that most of the Christians in the world are not Capitalists. If they are not outright Communists they are Socialists. This is true of the vast majority of believers in England, France, Germany, China, etc. I remember years ago when I had my own eyes opened to reality. I was really good friends with a Chinese woman from Hong Kong. We had Greek together and some other subjects. One day I made a rather uninformed comment, I had simply assumed (with never actually making examination) that faith in Jesus automatically made you anti-Communist. I was firmly but gently set straight. She herself was a (literally) card carrying Communist. As were all the native believers she knew. She was not totalitarian but she was Communist.

      But in the context of American history the epitaph “Communist” has in fact been a tool of the racist, white supramcists, to shut down (ironically) FREEDOM for non-whites. One more link on my own journey. Learning & ‘Thinking’ about ‘Race’ as a Southern White Disciple of the Jewish Messiah: https://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/01/18/learning-thinking-about-race-as-a-southern-white-disciple-of-a-jewish-messiah/

      Just a few thoughts generated by your comment. I did not respond to all of it. I do not wish to be unkind nor antagonistic, and hope I have not been. But I will promote racial justice as inherent in the Gospel message, with the love of the Messiah, with everything I have. For the sake of shalom.

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