Jalane Schmidt is the Director of the UVA Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project, and an Associate Professor of Religious Studies. As a scholar of African diaspora, Caribbean, and Latin American religions, she has conducted field researchfor three years in Cuba, and she is the author of Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race & Revolution in Cuba, a study of Cuban national identity, religion, politics, memory and public events.
Dr. Schmidt teaches courses on race and social change movements, and she serves on the City of Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee. With community partners, she plans and leads walking tours, pilgrimages, and other public history events focused upon Civil War memory, Jim Crow, the history of the local African American community and the Civil Rights Movement. As scholar-activist, Jalane organized progressives’ turnout to the 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces public hearings, which shifted public opinion to favor removal of the Confederate statues. Jalane helped found a local chapter of Black Lives Matter, she participated in Charlottesville’s 2017 Summer of Hate counterdemonstrations, and her political involvement in confronting white supremacy is ongoing. Jalane co-founded Take ‘Em Down Cville and the 2020 Monumental Justice Virginia campaign which organized affiliates statewide and successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to overturn a century-oldstate law which had prohibited localities from removing Confederate statues.
Jalane writes op-ed pieces and speaks about democratizing public space, and she is writing a book about Charlottesville’s Civil War and Reconstruction-era history, local neo-Confederate organizations and their Jim Crow monuments, and resistance to white supremacy. The Memory Project is a supporter of the Swords Into Plowshares effort to melt down Charlottesville’s statue of Robert E. Lee, and re-purpose its bronze to create new public art. Jalane’s first documentary film, “Unveiling: The Origin of Charlottesville’s Monuments,” will be released soon.