This Is How Grayson Jennings Defends His Heritage

Why am I not surprised that Virginia Flagger, Grayson Jennings, has taken to social media to vent about my appearance in Petersburg this past week for the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. As I mentioned in my last post, he had every opportunity to engage me following my talk on Friday evening, which was recorded by C-SPAN and slated to air the week of August 18. The potential was there for a very public challenge to the specifics of what I had to say and to my presence generally. Instead, we were treated to SILENCE.

Instead, we have this confused and revealing rant about race that very quickly spiraled into all kinds of fantasies that ultimately tell us much more about Mr. Jennings and his merry band of followers than anything about me.

Grayson JenningsJust a couple of points.

  • I spent the week at a Hampton Inn on South Crater Road, just south of the city.
  • Contrary to Mr. Willie Earl Wells’s memory I was not given a table to sign books at the crater site. I did spend about an hour yesterday morning at the visitor center to sign books. Mr. Wells will be happy to hear that I signed 8 books. As for the encounter that he described, well, I will leave that to you.
  • Mr. Dunn will be happy to hear that the park service in Petersburg sold most of their stock of my book by the end of the week. :-)

Again, I have to say that I am feeling so let down by the Virginia Flaggers.

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation if you are so inclined. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

44 comments… add one

  • historianess Aug 3, 2014

    I know I shouldn’t be surprised by the racism in his post and in the comments, but still, even after having lived half my life in Texas, this stuff surprises me. And makes me sick to my stomach.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

      It’s driven by a real paranoia, but it has nothing specifically to do with me. None of these individuals has actually read my book.

    • John Betts Aug 3, 2014

      Me too. I’ve been doing some research on Antebellum and Civil War beliefs about slavery & race for my thesis and some of it is just stomach-churning. That some persist in such attitudes today, even somewhat water-downed, is disgusting.

      • M.D. Blough Aug 3, 2014

        Have you read T.R. R. Cobb’s ““An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America” (1858)”?

        • I have never heard of Cobb, but I’m intrigued. One of my professors at PSU is the foremost authority on slave law in the Americas–Thomas Morris.

          • M.D. Blough Aug 4, 2014

            I have Thomas Morris’s book, “Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860,”

            • That’s it! Yes! I don’t confess to have gotten through it all. He was one of my favorite instructors. His Constitutional History seminars were intense. He is daunting, thorough, and wryly funny–he scared the hell out of me.

              I’m looking for a copy of “Free Men All,” on the personal liberty laws of the North. I lost my copy and it appears to be out of print.

              • M.D. Blough Aug 4, 2014

                It’s really more of a book that you use as a reference work than a sit down and read it cover to cover kind of book. Incredibly useful though.

              • Bob Huddleston Aug 4, 2014

                Go to bookfinder.com and enter Morris and Free Men All. There are a bunch of copies for $10-15, including postage.

        • John Betts Aug 4, 2014

          No I hadn’t read this or even heard of it actually. Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention! I found it online and I can get a hard copy at Amazon pretty cheaply. It looks quite interesting…

  • Will Stoutamire Aug 3, 2014

    Wow. Jennings’ original post is especially telling. He’s practically calling you a race traitor… what decade is this?

  • Rob Baker Aug 3, 2014

    The VA Flaggers need to find some new material.

  • Al Mackey Aug 3, 2014

    No wonder he’s a flagger. He’s a pure racist. And ol’ Willie Earl looks to be a liar as well. These people deserve all the contempt they get.

  • Jimmy Dick Aug 3, 2014

    Looks like another Facebook page for Stormfront members.

  • Andrew Duppstadt Aug 3, 2014

    Its called “keyboard courage” and lots of folks have it. Mr. Jennings obviously did not have the cajones to stand up for his own beliefs in public, but can hide behind his keyboard and write this kind of crap all day long. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or get really angry when I see stuff like this.

  • M.D. Blough Aug 3, 2014

    They are cowards. They had several opportunities to challenge you on historical/factual grounds and they didn’t open their mouths. I suspect it’s because somewhere buried under all the fantasy and can is the realization that the truth is against them..

  • K G Aug 3, 2014

    My favorite part was the guy who accused you of racism then asserted that people always accuse others of what they themselves are guilty of. So self-aware.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 3, 2014

    This is all Susan Hathaway’s fault. Ever since she got skeered of the VMFA she’s let Grayson Jennings and Barry Isenhour do all the talking for her (the other choice would have been trippin’ Tripp Lewis, so she doesn’t have a great selection). Neither of these gentlemen are particularly savvy. Meanwhile Susan goes around the South with Karen Cooper and Billy Bearden in what must be a wonderful road show.

    The Flaggers are one hot steaming mess.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

      As a group they have nothing to offer without their Confederate flags and when alone, as Jennings was on Friday evening, they are fish out of water. Either way, it’s a truly pathetic sight.

      I came down and interacted with scores of people over the course of four days. They achieved nothing and had no impact whatsoever on me. Perhaps it’s time to put up another Confederate flag on a highway. :-)

  • Andrew Raker Aug 3, 2014

    On the plus side, at least they didn’t veer into the antisemitism I’ve seen in the comments here regarding Kevin’s last name. Small victories?

    • John Betts Aug 3, 2014

      Well at least Judah P. Benjamin can be brought up whenever it’s raised. I rather like the scene in Harry Turtledove’s alternate history novel “Guns of the South” where he responds to Benjamin Butler, who had deliberately tried to provoke him with an anti-Semitic comment, that his ancestors were the princes of the Earth while Butler’s were still half-savages wearing animal skins.

      As for Turtledove’s book, it was an enjoyable read but one on par with a popcorn movie. That is, entertaining but with enough points to pick apart that one just has to suspend belief.

      • Forester Aug 3, 2014

        Seriously? A similar exchange happened in the graphic novel “Cleburne,” where Braxton Bragg commented on Benjamin’s heritage, and he made an almost exactly identical quote.

        I believe the real line was uttered by Benjamin Disraeli in England. I wonder if these authors were trying to paraphrase Disraeli, or were they confusing their Benjamins?

  • Goad Gatsby Aug 3, 2014

    You’re lucky, the Flaggers never go to my shows. Those shows are always great, I joke about how I am waste of white skin.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

      I suspect it’s because they see you more as a nuisance than as a threat to southern heritage. I’ve been singled out by this group for years.

      • Goad Gatsby Aug 3, 2014

        Jokes on them, I am a threat to them looking like reasonable adults.

  • Dave Tatum Aug 3, 2014

    Wow Kevin, sorry I missed the chance to shake hands. I was on a roll at work and racked up 20 hrs of O.T. so I had to decide what was more important. I guess payin my bills outweighs gettin thrills.
    I guarantee ya we would have spoken, and I would have been respectful. Maybe next time.
    By the way Kevin what happened to the apology you posted to the S.C.V. and the Flaggers, were you hacked ?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

      I guarantee ya we would have spoken, and I would have been respectful. Maybe next time.

      I am sure you would have been. I just find it funny that after all of his hootin’ and hollerin’ that this is the best Mr. Jennings can do.

      By the way Kevin what happened to the apology you posted to the S.C.V. and the Flaggers, were you hacked ?

      After thinking about it I decided to revise the update because at that point there still was no indication that a 15-year old had been approached, but even if he was on campus I would have agreed with the decision of campus police.The Flaggers have been known for their embellishments and I see no reason to cut them any slack even with the university’s admission. Given the recent statement by the League of the South I have no problem with the university taking the necessary precautions to secure their campus.

      Now, what do you think of Mr. Jennings’s post? Do you believe that I am owed an apology for any of this?

      • Dave Tatum Aug 3, 2014

        I have no association with the League of the south, a bit extreme for my taste but I suppose the 1st amendment gives folks the right to say what they feel.
        As for your removal of the apology, I felt the apology rang kind of hollow to begin with, so removing it was a moot point.
        Do I think you are owed an apology ? NO WAY ! You should be realistic in your view of the 15 year old’s situation. W&L admitted that a few incidents happened.(It seems there were Police /Security people present, contrary to what you posted) So I can’t say 100% it did, but given the fact W&L fessed up to (4?) such incidents I find it very possible.
        As for Mr. Jennings’s post, What goes around comes around. Not a post I would make, or possibly agree with, but it’s back to the 1st Amendment.
        You sound disappointed that the Flaggers were “not” more confrontational at Petersburg. What were you expecting ?

        • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

          I have no association with the League of the south, a bit extreme for my taste but I suppose the 1st amendment gives folks the right to say what they feel.

          I didn’t suggest that you did nor do I disagree with their right to speak out, but I also agree that a school has the right to respond to such announcements and secure its property. As someone who works in the security field I assume you agree as well.

          Do I think you are owed an apology ? NO WAY ! You should be realistic in your view of the 15 year old’s situation.W&L admitted that a few incidents happened.(It seems there were Police /Security people present, contrary to what you posted) So I can’t say 100% it did, but given the fact W&L fessed up to (4?) such incidents I find it very possible.

          You just made my point. It is possible, but there still has been no confirmation. I updated the post to reflect the university’s announcement, but I see no reason to give the SCV and Flaggers the benefit of the doubt.

          As for Mr. Jennings’s post, What goes around comes around. Not a post I would make, or possibly agree with, but it’s back to the 1st Amendment.

          Perhaps you can point out where I have ever made such accusations against anyone. Nor have I ever photoshopped an image of you.

          You sound disappointed that the Flaggers were “not” more confrontational at Petersburg. What were you expecting ?

          Absolutely. Given their chest beating I am at least disappointed that not one attempted to engage me in a forum where they had every opportunity to do so.

          • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 3, 2014

            David Tatum’s being dishonest and disingenuous as usual. I’ll leave it at that.

            • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2014

              I was generous in giving him two comments today, but like Connie Chastain I tend to keep him on a short rope.

  • Marian Latimer Aug 3, 2014

    Heritage, not hate. Oh, yeah, I can totally see that given the screen shot up above. Yes, they are all so misunderstood. Seriously, folks? I haven’t seen this sort of conversation since I was hanging around the junior high hallways with the mean kids jockeying for position.

  • Charles Joyce Aug 4, 2014

    I think you do courageous and necessary work; I bought your book as soon as it appeared and found it fascinating. I know it’s hard, but keep doing what you do. I have a special interest in all of this because I have an amazing image of 11 USCTs, all identified, 6 of whom were wounded in the battle. I am working on a talk/article about it, and will post info on fb starting this week. Again, on behalf of another “white apologist” I thank you.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2014

      Thanks for the kind words. Best of luck with your own research.

  • Buck Buchanan Aug 4, 2014

    Kevin,

    Again my apologies for missing your visit. The press of work and family overwhelmed me.

    That there was a conspicuous absence of confrontation is welcome news. It was a time an place for thoughtful contemplation of what those men did on that hellish morning 150 years ago. No 21st Century agenda should be allowed to intrude on that.

    And I hope you ate at Nanny’s when you were here! Right by your hotel!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2014

      I completely agree. For the sake of everyone with a genuine interest in history and thoughtful commemoration I am also pleased that the Flaggers did not make due on their promises.

      Wish I had known about Nanny’s a few days ago. :-)

  • Forester Aug 4, 2014

    I wasn’t able to go to Petersburg, but I hope to hear your address if it’s ever posted online. I would definitely have gotten a copy of your book signed. I have watched your Gettysburg speech on YouTube. I showed it to my brothers (aged 15) and several of my friends to explain the nature of the conflict at the Crater. It was a very good presentation.

    I don’t think these “Flagger” types have ever listened to you speak, or paid attention. Your speech in Gettysburg was actually very respectful to the Confederates at the Crater, probably more so than they deserved. You said many times that the Confederates believed that USCTs were the long-feared slave rebellion realized, and that they believed that their actions were in defense of the civilian population. I don’t know how much more respectful you can be, given what they did at the Crater. What do these Flaggers even want from you?

    I chuckled when that guy on Facebook called your book a “book of lies.” I guess E.P. Alexander wrote a book of lies too? Did soldiers write home letters of lies? I guess Confederate Veteran is a magazine of lies too? (okay, bad example). What I’m saying is that the most disgusting accounts of violence come from Confederate sources. “Confederate Veteran” would never publish an account of Crater murder today, but they weren’t shy about it in 1903.

    Do any non-murdering accounts of the Crater battle even exist? Every quote I ever saw — literally, EVERY ONE, was bold and open about the racial murder at the Crater. If you were going to write a “book of truths” for the Flaggers, where would you even find sources for it?

    Now, I gotta ask: When did you publish “MURDER AT THE CRATER?” I’ve never heard of this title. Is it the sequel to “Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder”? I didn’t know you were writing a whole series of Crater books now. ;-)

    • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

      Glad to hear it was helpful.

      I don’t think these “Flagger” types have ever listened to you speak, or paid attention.

      I don’t know a single one that has read my book. In fact, when the book came out I invited them to write a review that would be posted on my blog.

      I chuckled when that guy on Facebook called your book a “book of lies.”

      It’s funny because the first chapter of the book, which analyzes the Confederate response, is to me not very controversial at all once you delve into the primary sources. It’s people like Alexander, Pegram and countless others who were there that day who describe the massacre of blacks in excruciating detail. They were not shy about their involvement and why they believed it was necessary.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 5, 2014

    Grayson Jennings and his friends are examples of what happens when you choose to understand the Civil War Era while accepting, as Bruce Catton called it, “the indigestible lump of slavery.”

  • Jerry McKenzie Aug 5, 2014

    The race-baiting by Southerners is laughable. If their families have been in the South for any length of time, especially pre-Civil War, they might be related to their black neighbors as cousins at a minimum and during the war, it might have been brother v. brother.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

      No need to speculate on such things. The problem is with thinking that you are still fighting the war.

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