H.K. Edgerton Goes to Washington

get_imageI guess I should have anticipated a decision by H.K. to use the Obama election/inauguration to unify white and black American around the Confederate flag.  My local newspaper is reporting that H.K. is making his way up Rt. 29, which will take him right through Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington, D.C.  I can’t tell where along the highway he is, but if I find out I am going to make an attempt to meet him in person.  No doubt, he is freezing his ass off, but that is a small price to pay when the goal is to highlight the loyalty that African Americans demonstrated as Confederate soldiers throughout the war.  Some choice quotes from the article:

I’m an African-American and I’m a Southerner and I believe my heritage, which is represented by the flag bearing the Christian Cross of St. Andrew, is being ignored and destroyed. It’s continuing to divide the black folks and the white folks who have a lot in common.

Mr. Obama said he is about unity and bringing this nation together. If he is truly a man of unity, I hope he will consider showing the Southerner that [the Southerner] is an important part of this country.  He could have a Confederate color guard at the White House,” he said. “He could give the Confederate flag a respected place as part of the history and heritage of this country.

It does not represent slavery, although slavery was a fact of life. The flag represents a heritage, a way of life that my forebears had. It represents the men and the families that lived together and fought together to preserve their country from invasion.  My family volunteered for the Confederacy and fought side-by-side with white Southerners and Indian Southerners. They are all my family.

I am Southerner. This flag is not about slavery, it’s about family and God and country. I have more in common with fellow Southerners like George Wallace than I do with [the Rev.] Al Sharpton. I’m from the South. I’m of the South and my family is Southern, be they white, red, black or yellow. We share a heritage and a way of life.

I’ve commented extensively on the issue of black Confederates/Confederate slaves so I will refrain from belaboring the point.  However, it is worth reflecting a bit on Edgerton’s emphasis on the Confederate experience as somehow constituting a point of unity between black and white Americans.  It’s not simply a reflection of poor history, but also of the Confederacy’s overwhelming place in Southern/American memory.  Of course this is no surprise given its importance to the region and the nation, but it clearly overshadows in a way which minimizes other significant moments in the history of the South that had the potential to bridge the racial divide.  Consider the Populist Movement led by Tom Watson, not to mention the Civil Rights Movement itself.

It’s unfortunate that H.K.’s embrace of American history is ultimately a gross distortion of it.  Fortunately, it wouldn’t take much to correct it once he arrives in D.C.  I recommend that he approach the reenactors in the 54th Massachusetts and request to march in the inaugural parade as part of a legitimate historically-based unit.  You want to honor black Southerners who sacrificed everything for their families and nation (even at a time when the Dred Scott ruling was still on the books) than don that blue uniform and acknowledge the heroism of your fellow black Southerners (1).

(1) Of course,  I am aware that the 54th was made up primarily of free blacks from the North, but you get my point.


23 responses... add one

Was this the same guy that the UDC used in their fight against Vanderbilt over Confederate Memorial Hall?

I think so. H.K. is both the UDC’s and SCV’s favorite pet. In many ways his story highlights the overwhelming success and pervasiveness of the Lost Cause. Mildred Rutherford would indeed be pleased.

I actually don’t get your point at all. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never read your blog before. Are you saying an African American has no right to be a proud Southerner and proud of the Confederate flag? Or am I missing the point entirely?

I believe that African Americans have a strong claim to identifying with the history and heritage of the South. What I find ludicrous, however, is the suggestion that the symbol of the Confederate flag is historically rooted in anything having to do with positive race relations. The Confederate flag was carried into battle by men who fought for a government whose expressed purpose was the maintenance of slavery and a white racial hierarchy. In the 1950s it became a symbol of “Massive Resistance” against civil rights. If you are interested in the history of the Confederate flag I highly recommend John Coski’s, The Confederate Battle Flag (Harvard University Press).

Edgerton proceeds under the false belief that the majority of free blacks and slaves supported and fought for the Confederacy. This is a dangerous mythology that took hold by the turn of the twentieth century and continues to be reinforced by various heritage organizations. I highly recommend that you explore the sidebar category on black Confederates for much more information.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Kevin:

I’ve never met Mr. Edgerton, nor do I claim to know what he’s all about. While I’m not sure his methods are the best way to get his views out, I support his right to express his opinions, regardless of how controversial they may be. I do know that he was once President of a local NAACP chapter. Given that background, I would have to assume Mr. Edgerton is aware of the various issues surrounding the Confederate battle flag. Furthermore, I think you referring to him as “the UDC’s and SCV’s favorite pet” is demeaning to him personally, unless, of course, you’ve talked to him and questioned him about your concerns, heard his views, and come to that conclusion based on HIS thoughts and comments and not those of others. I have heard him interviewed once on the radio and he sounds like an intelligent man. I’m sure he’d be willing to answer your questions forthrightly.

Why don’t you invite him to be a guest on your radio show?

RGW

Richard,

Of course, I also support his right to express his opinions even if they are fundamentally flawed. I also agree that he comes across as an intelligent man who is passionate about his particular view of the past; no doubt, he would make an excellent radio show guest and I will perhaps pursue it at some point.

Referring to him as a “pet” may not have been the best choice of words, but I do believe that the SCV has taken full advantage of him to further their own agenda on the issue of Confederate slaves. I’ve written quite a bit about Edgerton over the past two years and I know his story well. Unfortunately, he does not understand the history he claims to identify with; more importantly, in identifying black Southerners with the Confederacy he completely ignores the overwhelming numbers who risked their lives to secure their freedom both before and during the war as well as those who fought for the United States and helped to save the Union.

Hi Kevin,

I made a New Year’s resolution not to engage in political discussions in 2009, which resolution I am getting ready to break–hopefully not with regret, lol.

When I first learned of H.K. Edgerton on your blog, I looked up a video of him and listened to him speak. This man is no one’s “pet”, as you have already acknowledged. That fact led me to wonder why such an intelligent, insightful man would take up such a questionable cause, and the conclusion that I reached is that he is taking a stand to protect a principle–that principle being that no one possesses “The Truth”. Also, he is correct in stating that there are, and have been for generations, many layers of interaction of the races in the South that are not understood by many outside of the area, and I am not speaking of a dominant white race suppressing black men and women, nor of all that that entails. I am speaking of the reality of a life lived together by the races, for better or for worse, in spite of Jim Crow laws and decades of abuse and discrimination–a life lived on the terms of the black community itself as the white community entered the black community, which was the experience of my family. To not acknowledge this, is to denigrate aspects of the white and the black experience in the South, and the broader implications that that experience had for future generations. We were welcome in the homes and churches of the black community and the black community was welcome in our home. That was not true, of course, across the board. But it happened much more than you may know, and in many ways it helped lay the groundwork for the success of the civil rights movement as Dr. King captured for all time in his words and actions the untenable moral position the entire nation found itself in as black men and women worked for justice and simultaneously forgave their oppressors, even as they were beaten, imprisoned, and murdered. I believe that this is an unprecedented state of affairs in the history of the world, and it was a state of affairs created by the incomprehensible largeness of spirit of the Southern black community that realized not only the ideals of the nation, but of Christianity as well, and further, of the universal dream of brotherhood found in all cultures and religions.

You know my position on the Confederate flag: it should be retired, in my opinion. Edgerton has the right to defend the flag, however, which I am sure you know. For me, it is rather like the requirement in our society–in order to protect our first amendment rights–that we defend the publication of magazines that disrespectfully display a woman’s body and that I personally would rather see not published in order to defend and protect the rights of someone like Toni Morrison to publish her work, which was actually under threat of being censured several decades ago. If HK Edgerton wants to march to Washington with a Confederate Flag waving above his head, he has the right to do it. Why he would want to do this is beyond me, but I support his right to do so. Maybe he will read your blog, have a change of heart, and retire the flag himself. I hope so. Thanks, Kevin.

Hi Sherree,

Thanks for the comment. Again, the choice of the word “pet” did not quite communicate what I meant to say, which is that the SCV drools over Edgerton because he adds credibility to their flawed and dangerous view of race relations. While I agree with much of what you stated I don’t believe that this is what Edgerton intends or that this is how we ought to view his statements and actions. I think there is a great deal of contemporary political issues wrapped up in his little act, but what truly disturbs me is that his view of the flag as well as assumptions surrounding the place of black southerners in the Confederacy is a product of a particular time and agenda. Of course, I agree that the history of white and black southerners cannot be properly understood apart from one another, but Edgerton’s view does not get us any closer to the truth. His view is a distortion of that past and a product of postwar mythology that has been documented by numerous historians.

Finally, I have a very high tolerance for the First Amendment which means Edgerton can do whatever he wants with his little flag and uniform. Thanks again Sherree and I hope to hear more from you in the future – even if it means not sticking to your reslutions. :) I’ve never been a big fan of those.

Have a good day, Kevin. I am always very interested in what you have to say as well. These issues are complex and no one has the definitive point of view, so there is much to be learned from one another. I am truly perplexed by Edgerton’s stand, if the stand is not for the reason I stated above. It just doesn’t make any sense that a man who was active in the NAACP would carry and defend a Confederate flag.

As far as New Year’s resolutions go–maybe 9 o’clock in the morning is not too early for chocolate cake after all. Thanks for your input.

Keep thinking, writing, and blogging, and I will talk to you soon. This week
Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States–an event that every American can and should celebrate with pride. Obama is truly a remarkable man in every way. He is also a leader like our nation has not seen in a very long time–perhaps ever! I look forward to the next four years and beyond.

Sherree

Kevin,

Take a gander at the Daily Progress website and see the comment section following yesterday’s article. Really remarkable how any take on this issue provides a chance for Neo-Confederates to take after imagined enemies while inventing history out of whole cloth.

Speaking of inventing history, I was struck by this sentence toward the end of the article:

“Research in the past decade has turned up information on regiments of black soldiers serving the South, most volunteer.”

Odd construction that; African-Americans mostly volunteered? Beyond the too little, too late steps in final weeks of the war to enroll black soldiers, can anyone point to any evidence that “regiments of black soldiers” served the South? The reporter apparently took Edgerton at his word.

Most reporters I know are natural-born skeptics . . .

Bill,

Nice to hear from you. The comments are disappointing, but I guess not to be expected. Actually, they help to better understand the political/economic/racial context in which Edgerton operates.

I would love to know who has done this “research” into volunteer black Confederate regiments – absolutely hilarious. So much for “reporting” the news. I guess it just means quote and print for the C-Ville paper.

Well, we do know that black soldiers in the U.S. Army did volunteer and did so as non-citizens. Fortunately, we will see them on Tuesday in the inaugural parade and not Edgerton.

I can’t help but seize on a line that is standard in Confederate apologista circles:

“It does not represent slavery, although slavery was a fact of life. The flag represents a heritage, a way of life that my forebears had.”

This is an example of the kind of extreme temporal seperation that Edgerton and Lost Cause advocates have peddled for decades. Please explain to me how “slavery” could possibly be seperated from “a way of life,” given that that way of life was explicitely founded on the economic, social and political institution that was slavery! Kevin, this is cognitive dissonance on a massive scale and represents a kind of intellectual selectivism that reveals a true lack of real intellect. The southern “way of life” that Lost Cause advocates so often crow about was a way of life founded on racial slavery. There is no middle-ground there. Mr. Edgerton either doesn’t recognize this, doesn’t care, or feels that by denying this fact he can be accepted into a historical past that he desperatley wants to identify with. Either way, its a tragedy.

Sherree:

Though I tend to disagree with you more often than not, I must say that some of the thoughts in your first comment could have been written by me. As a matter of fact, I expressed many of those same sentiments in my book about Jackson and his black Sunday school class.

Particularly important are these words:

“Also, he is correct in stating that there are, and have been for generations, many layers of interaction of the races in the South that are not understood by many outside of the area . . .”

Thanks for taking the risk in posting those thoughts.

RGW

Sure wish their was someone in the parade to represent the 10,000 white men from NC who joined the Union Army. There history has been silenced by the confederates and ignored by scholars. I know there are books out there, have read everyone I can find, but they only touch the surface of the topic and get the easy low hanging fruit.

I was looking for a confederate monument in Horry County and came across the website for the local SCV. It has a link for Black Confederates. I think some of these guys have been drinking to much political correctness kool-aid and actually believe what they are saying. One question does come to mind in all this. Why were there not massive slave revolts in the South during the Civil War?

Richard P. — Unfortunately, there was no room for southern unionists in the Lost Cause narrative. As to your question about slave revolts during the war, I would argue that thousands of slaves did so by running away at various points. Perhaps it is our tendency to understand “revolts” in terms that imply violence.

Jarrett, — What can I say other than that this particular narrative strand is pervasive to this day.

Just checked in after watching the Inaugural celebrations, which are truly amazing. Our President elect said that Abraham Lincoln was one man who above all men helped to make this day possible. I could not agree with Barack Obama more completely.

Richard,

Thank you for your kind words, but I don’t think that we are saying the same thing. My experience of the black community was, and continues to be, on terms set by the black community, not the other way around. We are truly family, and this relationship stretches across generations. The relationship is not that of descendants of former master to descendants of former slaves.

In my part of the state white men and women were brought into the black community for many different reasons, but always the results were the same–they were taken in. One white man I know who was adopted and brought up by the black community told me that he thought he was black until he was fifteen years old and a white man told him he wasn’t.

The white men and women who had the privilege of coming of age under the tutelage of the black community in my area truly were the white children of black mothers, in many ways, and those black women helped form our spirituality and our worldview. So to them all, I say thank you, and God bless you for helping make this day possible.

“I don’t think that we are saying the same thing.”

That would be impossible for you to know unless you’ve read what I said. I thought we had found some common ground. Perhaps I was mistaken.

Richard,

I am not against you. I just don’t agree with what I perceive to be your stand on certain fundamental issues. If I am wrong, I am willing to listen, but perhaps we should talk on your blog. Peace.

Kevin,

Thanks, as always, for posting my comments and for providing the forum for true discussion. You are brilliant at that.

We are one people, our new President has said. We are one people.

Let’s all work on that.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

History will always be written by the victors. Lincoln was proven to be a racist himself. The Emancipation Crock was a war tactic and cleary stated so by Lincoln within it. The Confederate Flag wasn’t considered racist or evil until the KKK and Aryan groups waved it along side the Nazi Flag. The north was STILL buying and selling slaves out of Boston during the Civil War. Just like the U.S. invaded Afganastan to find Bin Laden is a bunch of B.S. and the U.S. invading Iraq was shrouded in lies , I believe The Civil War History we have been taught is also a bunch of lies. Anyone with half a brain can see that since the U.S. has occupied Afganastan the heroin influx into the U.S. has increased almost 100% and it is blatant fact that there was never any WOMD in Iraq , a lot of money and oil though and boy , what a cool place to have a base at . Those who believe what they’re told become sheep , those who question it become a threat. The reason why our country is in such turmoil is because no body questions or stands up to the Government anymore , we are ruled by a tyrant , and here we argue over a 200 yr old flag and what it may or may not stand for. Maybe I’m missing the point but why would a group of highly intellectual individuals bother themselves with an issue that really wouldn’t change ANYTHING wether it was retired or respected for any one but those who embrace it regardless? All that comes to mind for me now is a song…..

“Speaking words of wisdom , let it be.”

I am surprised that I have not seen this post before. In the article he talks about ‘his family’ fighting next to white and Indian southerners. I am just wondering where the documentation for this is. If he is really so believing in this account, maybe he would be game for peer review.

I’ve got a post in the works on H.K.’s involvement in today’s protest in Lexington, Virginia.

I must say this is very amusing, if you had studied history you would know that if all the south wanted to do was keep their slaves they could have stayed in the US and done so by passing the ammendment Lincoln and congress passed that made slavery a permanent institution. No, they left the US because of the 40% tax that was passed down on them, and furthermore if the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism the the flag of the US is even more so, slavery flew under the flag of the US for over 70 years and the flag the slaves saw as the got off the ships carrying them was the flag of the US, not a single slave was brought to this country under the flag of the CS, Mr Levine you really need to go back to school and learn truthful history, not politically correct history.

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