(The photo is of a middle aged woman, Virginia Durr, unsmiling, with glasses.)
Virginia Foster Durr is one the women about whom I knew little to nothing before starting this project, and now I want to know more about her. She sounds like she was incredible. Learning about people like her is so what makes this worthwhile.
Virginia was born in Alabama in 1903. Her family was wealthy, prominent, and privileged. Virginia grew up a Southern belle, and a self-described "deep-dyed Southern bigot."
In 1921, Virginia enrolled at Wellesley College. At Wellesley, she got her first taste of Northern integration, to which she at first resisted. However, by the time she was forced to leave Wellesley in 1923 due to a family financial crisis, she had begun to think outside her upbringing in terms of both race and gender.
Returning to Alabama, Virginia took a job at the Birmingham Bar Library, where she met her husband, Clifford Durr. They married in 1926.
In 1932, Virginia and Clifford moved to Washington D.C. They at first intended to stay only a short time, but ended up there for 16 years. Virginia joined the Women's National Democratic Club and began to get involved in politics. She worked especially hard to help pass the 1965 Voting Rights act and elimination of the poll tax. In 1938, Virginia helped found the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, an interracial organization working towards Southern desegregation. In 1948, Virginia ran (unsuccessfully) for Senate on the Progressive Party ticket.
In 1951, the Durrs returned to Alabama. Throughout several decades, Clifford and Virginia worked for Civil Rights. In 1955, they bailed Rosa Parks out of jail after she refused to give up her bus seat. In the early 1960s, the Durrs opened their home to Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers.
Virginia and Clifford had four children. He died in 1975. In her later years, Virginia worked towards nuclear disarmament with the same passion she had shown for Civil Rights work. In 1985, Virginia published her autobiography, Outside the
Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr.
Virginia died in 1999. Upon hearing of her death, Rosa Parks remarked that her "upbringing of privilege did not prohibit her from wanting equality for all people. She was a lady and a scholar, and I will miss her."