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"Unite the Right" Rally and Community Response collection

Identifier: MSS 16386

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the events of August 11 and 12, 2017 that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the circumstances surrounding them. It also documents the responses to those events from communities in and outside the city of Charlottesville. The contents of this collection include analog and born digital materials. Some materials were donated, and others physically collected by library staff and Charlottesville residents. A significant portion of the materials were created by individuals and communities outside of Charlottesville, which were then sent to Charlottesville City Hall, who donated them to the University of Virginia. Library staff also collected born digital materials by means of digital processing and by means of participatory archival efforts with the Charlottesville community, and from communities outside Charlottesville. Specific groups that participated in the creation of this collection form a sort of community based on either their first-hand experience, or their expressions of solidarity with the victims and witnesses of the August 11 and 12 rallies. These groups include members of UVA Library staff, individuals and groups that sent condolence materials and letters of support, Charlottesville residents that submited and described narratives, videos, or photographs via an online portal, and Twitter users tweeting about August 11 and 12, 2017. The archived Tweets lend themselves to the participatory aspect of the collection as many of them also express solidarity against the “Unite the Right” ralliers.

The analog materials in series 1 follow a chronological organization beginning with materials from the months leading up to August 11 and 12, 2017 found in series 1, subseries 1. The collection begins with materials from the July 8, 2017 KKK rally and documents regarding that rally and its aftermath, and some printed email correspondence from police and Charlottesville City Council. These materials document some of the context and backdrop of the “Unite the Right” rally.

In series 1, subseries 2 the materials help document events of August 11 and 12, and some of the circumstances surrounding those events. Printed email correspondence disclose some of the activities of the Charlottesville Police Department and of city council members during and after the demonstrations. Artifacts from the August 11, 2017 torch-lit rally and from the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally provide evidence of the activities during those events. Printed ephemera, like pamphlets, zines, and flyers reveal some of the activities of Charlottesville’s residents and their expressions in anticipation of, and in response to the day’s events. Series 1, subseries 3 contains materials relating to the “Unite the Right” rally from after August 12, 2017. The majority of the correspondents in this subseries are condolence materials. Condolence letters and letters of support include those sent or addressed to Mayor Michael Signer, Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, members of the Charlottesville City Council, Charlottesville City Hall, the city of Charlottesville, and Heather Heyer. Condolence letters and letters of support were sent from public offices and municipalities, religious organizations, educational and professional institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations, political organizations, and from individuals and communities from around the world. Many of the condolence letters and letters of support that were sent from public offices and municipalities include motions reached at town meetings, proclamations and resolutions denouncing white supremacy, white nationalism and groups demonstrating hate and bigotry in support of Charlottesville’s citizens, and signatures of citizens to pledge solidarity with the city of Charlottesville. Condolence artifacts of various formats were also sent to Charlottesville City Hall and document the varied kinds of expressions of support and solidarity. The artifacts in this subseries also includes the broken nose of the "Faith" statue, which is the front of the Stonewall Jackson statute's granite pedestal in Court Square Park.

The other types of correspondence in this subseries include letters and one restricted typed narrative that presents an assessment of the events of August 12, 2017 from one person's point of view. Some of the letters are addressed to members of Charlottesville City Hall and City Council that express severe criticism of the manner in which the mayor and members of city council, and the Charlottesville Police Department handled the events of August 12, 2017. Other letters also express dissatisfaction of Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the Lee and Jackson statues, while also attempting to convey a particular narrative of southern history. Some correspondence also expresses severely racist comments towards black people and people of color, in general. Also in this subseries are materials that demonstrate the community plans and response for the anniversaries of the "Unite the Right" Rally. These include flyers for protests one year after the event, fliers and brochures handed out during the "Reclaim the Park" anniversary event in 2020, a press conference announcement, zines, and a listing of anti-racist events with a collection of comments from Charlottesville anti-racist activists.

The periodical issues with articles about the events of August 11 and 12 portray the mainstream local and national reactions. The other print materials and ephemera collected after August 12, the copy of a legal complaint filed against Jason Kessler and other parties, the official report released by lawyers in Charlottesville, and the audio-cassette recording of songs by a local musician all document some of the responses of Charlottesville’s communities and residents.

The digital materials in series two consist of both born digital and digitized analog materials. Some documentation was contributed by a number of Charlottesville community members, city residents, students, and university staff alike via the “Unite the Right” Rally and Community Response digital collection website created by the University of Virginia Library. While some digital photographs were taken at the July 8 KKK rally, the majority were taken during the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally. The photographs and videos of protesters and anti-protesters, of police, of symbols and messages, and of people and artwork away from the activities demonstrate the circumstances of the events, and of the community response to the violence and turmoil that unfolded. The written narratives provide documentation of the events and of the community response, as well, but also provide evidence of the emotional responses.

The growing collection of archived web pages provides a different kind of record of how the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally was perceived and documented. The collection of news and opinion articles from local, regional, and national sources, along with blogs, reddit threads, and a YouTube music video provides a small representation of responses to August 11 and 12, 2017 on the internet. The archived tweets and Twitter data-sets exhibit other forms of communication, like hashtags and emojis that can be included in the larger community of people responding to the events of August 12, 2017.


  • Majority of material found within 2017-01-03 - 2018

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use. The story donated by Michael McGee requires permission from the donor prior to use. Consult repository for details.

Conditions Governing Use

Because of the assembled nature of this collection, copyright status varies across the collection. Copyright is assumed to be held by the original creator of

Historical Note

On the night of Friday August 11, 2017, the “Unite the Right” organizers held an unpermitted torchlit march at the University of Virginia. A group of several hundred men and woman, identified by many sources as Alt-right members and white nationalists, gathered on UVA’s “nameless” field with lit torches in hand. They then marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia’s grounds while chanting “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us”. They continued to walk around the Rotunda, then to the statue of Thomas Jefferson. At the base of the statue, where the white nationalists surrounded a smaller group of counter protesters and a brawl ensued. According to sources, University officials were aware of this event for hours before it began. However, there was no action taken to enforce any separation of the two groups or to prevent the violence. Reports state that University officials and University Police were unprepared for the event, and University Police only dispersed the crowd after aid was provided by the Charlottesville Police Department. On August 12, 2017 right wing and white nationalist groups gathered in Charlottesville to oppose a plan to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. This same plan also prompted a similar protest in May, 2017, led by white nationalist Richard Spencer, and the Ku Klux Klan rally on July 8, 2017. Jason Kessler had previously obtained a permit to convene a rally at the Lee Statue, an event that was called “Unite the Right”. The rally was much larger than the July KKK rally that took place in Charlottesville, and was a more significant public safety challenge for officials and authorities, despite the attempt by city council to move the event’s location to McIntire Park. Violence broke out ahead of the rally’s scheduled noon start, after which Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. The Charlottesville Police Department and the Virginia State Police’s failure to coordinate in a unified command, in combination with general planning and coordination breakdowns, resulted in their inability to intervene in violent altercations, and to protect public safety. When unlawful assembly was declared, law enforcement officers pushed Alt-Right protesters in Emancipation Park back towards counter-protesters with whom they had been in conflict, generating even more violence. The violence spread beyond the park to Market Street, Justice Park, High Street, Water Street, and the Downtown Mall, culminating in the death of 32-year-old paralegal, Heather Heyer, who was killed when James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at 4th and Water Streets. Nineteen people were injured when the car drove into the crowd, and at least 15 others were injured that day, including DeAndre Harris, a man beaten in an altercation with “Unite the Right” ralliers. Several hours after the incident that killed Heather Heyer, two Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, died in a helicopter accident while monitoring the demonstrations.


17.6 Cubic Feet

100 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Arranged in two series: 1. Physical (Analog) Materials. 2. Digital materials.

This collection is arranged in two series, each of which has been further arranged into subseries. Series 1, Pysical (Analog) Materials, is arranged into three subseries, and each subseries is arranged into files. Each subseries in Series 1 is arranged chronologically relative to August 11 and 12, 2017. The contents of each subseries in Series 1 are arranged by type or format. Series 2, Digital Materials, is arranged into 4 subseries. The contents of Series 2 are arranged in general type or format, and each subseries is arranged by format. The series, subseries, and files are as follows:

Series 1, Physal (Analog) Materials

Subseries 1, Materials leading up to August 11 and 12, 2017 and the "Unite the Right" rally, 6/6/2017 - 8/10/2017 File 1, Correnspondence materials File 2, Announcements, flyers, pamphlets, publications File 3, Posters File 4, Articats Subseries 2: Materials from August 11 and 12, 2017, and the "Unite the Right" rally, 8/11/2017 - 8/12/2017 File 1, Correnspondence materials File 2, Announcements, flyers, pamphlets, publications File 3, Posters and signs File 4, Artifacts Subseries 3: Materials following August 11 and 12, 2017, and the "Unite the Right" rally 8/13/2017 - 2020 File 1, Correspondence materials: letters of support and other correspondence File 2, Announcements, flyers, pamphlets, publications File 3, Legal documents, official reports File 4, Artifacts File 5, Audio-visual materials

Series 2, Digital materials

Subseries 1: Stories and audiovisual materials submitted via online collection site Subseries 2: Archived web pages Subseries 3: Archived tweets and Twitter datasets Subseries 4: Digitized analog materials There are still a large number of digital and born-digital materials that have not been processed. They will become available when processing is complete.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Anonymous donors. University of Virginia Library staff. Charlottesville residents. Charlottesville City hall. Other, Individual donors, e.g: Michael McGee, Rosemary Balister, Derek Brown, Arlyn Newcomb, Tyler Magill, Sarah Brazelton.

Related Materials

Related materials documenting the July 8, 2017 KKK rally, and the August 11 and 12, 2017 Unite the Right rally can be found here:

Boggs, Jeremy, 2017, "Charlottesville KKK Tweet IDs",, University of Virginia Dataverse, V1. Deeyah Khan, 2017, "White Right - Meeting the Enemy",, University of Virginia Robertson Media Center Streaming Content. Paul Tait Roberts, 2018, "Charlottesville" (Unite the Right Rally),, University of Virginia Robertson Media Center Streaming Content.

Littman, Justin, 2018, "Charlottesville Tweet Ids",, Harvard Dataverse, V1.
"Unite the Right" Rally and Community Response collection
August 11 and 12, 2017 and Community Response collection
Joseph Azizi
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States