Ellie Kemper recently came under fire on Twitter as it re-emerged that she was crowned the Queen of the Veiled Prophet Ball/Pageant. This event has strong ties to both former confederate soldiers and also wealthy businessmen in St. Louis. It sprang up in response to the 1877 Railroad strike, where both black and white workers in Missouri joined together to strike for better working conditions. The ball was designed to help the traditional white elite in St Louis remain the dominant force.
In this video, we look at the history of the Veiled Prophet, the Kemper family and how much is she responsible for taking part in the ball.
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Buzzfeed reporting: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor Ellie Kemper came under fire over the Memorial Day weekend after photos resurfaced online of her participating as a beauty queen in an organization that had historically excluded Black and Jewish people.
Kemper was crowned the "Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty" at a 1999 ball in St. Louis organized by the Veiled Prophet organization, which has racist and elitist origins, according to civil rights activists who frequently picketed the event in the 1960s and '70s.
The then-19-year-old Kemper's association with the organization — a group consisting of wealthy white elites cofounded in 1878 by a former Confederate officer that excluded Black and Jewish people until 1979 — shocked many on Twitter and was a trending topic over two days.
While it was news to a lot of people online, Kemper's involvement in the debutante ball had already been cited on her Wikipedia page and written about before, including in these 2009 and 2010 profiles of Kemper by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and this 2020 blog post that noted the allegations of racism tied to the event.
A 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch file photo showed a smiling Kemper wearing a white gown and gloves and being attended by her "pages" after becoming the "105th young woman" to be crowned the Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty at the Adam's Mark hotel in St. Louis.
Kemper, who was attending Princeton University at the time, belongs to a wealthy and influential banking family from St. Louis. She told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that she had a "very privileged, nice, warm childhood."
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