Spotlight: Richmond, Virginia

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Lincoln, has brought the Civil War back into the American consciousness with Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar-winning performance as this country’s sixteenth president.

The majority of the scenes from the movie were filmed in Richmond, Virginia, the same location of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph, Jefferson Davis Day.

cartier_bresson_317_1994

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jefferson Davis Day, Virginia, 1962 (317.1994)

Who are the women in the photo and what significance does Jefferson Davis have in Richmond?

Richmond was the Confederate capital during the Civil War, with Jefferson Davis serving as its President. Davis also resided in downtown Richmond in the White House of the Confederacy, which has since been restored as a museum.

In the photo, several women from the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) are dedicating a portrait of Jefferson Davis. UDC is headquartered in Richmond and its members are blood descendents of the men and women who served on the side of the Confederacy. According to UDC’s current librarian, Cartier-Bresson’s photo may have been taken at the local medical school, The Medical College of Virginia. A few of UDC’s members also recognize the woman featured at the front of the frame as the Chaplain of the General Organization at the time.

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