H.K. Edgerton Dropped From W.V. Sesquicentennial Event

It looks like H.K. will not be performing as part of the Guyandotte Civil War Days, scheduled for Nov. 1-6 near Huntington, West Virginia. Apparently, Edgerton spoke last year at the event, but this year organizers were denied matching funds by the state’s Civil War sesquicentennial committee. That was sufficient to cancel his appearance.

Of course, one wonders why he was invited in the first place. He certainly is entertaining. His speeches have been fine tuned to garner a strong emotional response from those who have a strong need to see an African American man dressed in Confederate uniform, who fervently believes that large numbers of blacks fought in the army and that that the black population as a whole maintained the strongest ties to the Confederate cause and their masters through to the end of the war. In the trailer that I posted yesterday, H.K. calls for Lincoln to be disinterred so he can be placed on trial for war crimes.

It’s hard to believe there would be any controversy about this at all and I suspect there isn’t beyond those individuals and groups who are pre-disposed to see everything as part of a war against Southern Heritage. Is this really what the taxpayers of West Virginia should be expected to fund? Do Edgerton’s rantings help us to better understand the Civil War in West Virginia in any way shape or form? If so, I would love to hear how exactly. Keep in mind that Edgerton was scheduled as the keynote speaker for this particular event. The article refers to him as a writer, but I know of nothing that Edgerton has written that even remotely resembles a historical study.  The fundamental problem, however, is that Edgerton entertains a predominantly white audience.  African Americans simply do not perceive Edgerton as a caretaker or custodian of their story – not even a narrow sliver of that narrative.

I haven’t followed the sesquicentennial in West Virginia. There has been some controversy connected to the commission and one of my friends recently chose to resign, but this seems to me to be a no-brainer. Edgerton is going to have plenty of opportunity to sell his t-shirts during the sesquicentennial, but let’s not mistake a circus act for the many ways that Confederate soldiers and black Southerners can be respectfully commemorated.

10 comments… add one

  • Scott MacKenzie Aug 14, 2011

    This isn’t much of an improvement. The other speakers belong to the ‘southern heritage’ ideology. Where are the Unionists? Like other northwestern Virginia counties, secession split Cabell and Wayne in twain. Slaveholding was small in scale, Cabell having 84 owners and 305 slaves, while 37 Wayne County residents owned 143 slaves, providing a fertile base for disunion. Yet, each voted against secession by considerable majorities (by 600 in Cabell and 900 in Wayne). Clearly many southerners there continued to support the Union there. Needless to say, one-sided history like this allows myths to perpetuate.

    The organizers ought to replace Mr. Edgerton with someone giving the Unionist perspective. Cabell provided an important observer to the statehood movement, Granville Parker. Perhaps he could have a re-enactor, debating another representing Albert Gallatin Jenkins (also of Cabell County).

    • Andy Hall Aug 15, 2011

      The other speakers belong to the ‘southern heritage’ ideology.

      The event is primed for that. From the intro page of the website:

      It was November of 1861, this sleepy southern town of Guyandotte was firmly in Union hands, when history was made on these very streets. Confederate raiders struck suddenly and quickly, capturing the Garrison and returning the village to the dominion of the Stars and Bars; however the conquest was short-lived, the Confederates leaving town the next morning with their Richmond-bound prisoners in tow. Union liberators returned soon after and took their vengeance on what they considered a “seesech” town. By nightfall, two-thirds of the village had been burned to the ground.

      I don’t know if that’s an accurate summary of historical events there or not, but the commemoration squarely frames Guyandotte as the site of Yankee vindictive atrocity, a sort of Atlanta-on-the-Ohio. Clearly-defined good guys and bad guys make for easy entertainment, and that’s what’s going on here.

      • Kevin Levin Aug 15, 2011

        I just love their idea of what constitutes a lecture series.

        • Scott MacKenzie Aug 15, 2011

          Is it still a lecture series when only one side is allowed to speak?

      • Scott MacKenzie Aug 15, 2011

        That description appears accurate as based on an article by Joe Geiger titled “The Tragic Fate of Guyandotte” (see link below)

        http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh54-2.html

        And it appears that they are indeed sustaining a pro-Confederate heritage. What a pity. So much more went on in that part of northwestern Virginia.

  • Chris L. Robinson Aug 14, 2011

    “The fundamental problem, however, is that Edgerton entertains a predominantly white audience. African Americans simply do not perceive Edgerton as a caretaker or custodian of their story – not even a narrow sliver of that narrative.”

    We sure as heck don’t. But only because he doesn’t.

  • Matthew Donnelly Aug 15, 2011

    West Virginia is a strange case, anyway. My parents did Catholic mission work there 20 years ago and said that there was a lot of rebel flag waving and pro-confederate leanings, missing the point that their ancestors effectively told off the Tidewater politicians and went with the Union.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 15, 2011

      Someone really needs to write a book on how West Virginia became Confederate after the war, probably not unlike Kentucky: http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Confederate-Kentucky-Memory-America/dp/080783436X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313415858&sr=8-1

      • Robert Sep 25, 2011

        Because West Virginians are rebels. Thus the Battle Flag as Rebel Flag (versus Battle Flag as Confederate Flag) is now appropo. The same reason that Rockabilly – especially in Europe and Britain – waves the Rebel Flag. And Norwegian Rockabilly (for example) is about as unattached to the Confederate politics as one can get – but few wave it more proudly.

        And why it was waved by bikers and hippies – the phenomen of Battle Flag as the worlds common “Rebel” icon amongst fringe groups of all stripes (not merely among the racist fringe) is a matter greatly under-explored.

        • Robert Sep 25, 2011

          My hypothesis .. it just looks so cool. One of the most effective flag designs in history, in my opinion – at a glance, unlike the flags of most nations, it is not easily confused with any other. The flag of Japan also falls into that category .. I think the flag of the US may fall there, but maybe not as it is also a more complicated design, and I am too close to it to view it objectively.

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