H.K. Edgerton, Neo-Confederates & the Limits of Black Political Action

edgerton

It should come as no surprise that H.K. Edgerton helped to dedicate a new Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa, Florida this weekend that includes a marker honoring black Confederate soldiers. In the past I have suggested that it is best to understand Edgerton’s presence at these events as a form of entertainment, not entirely unlike the presence of former camp slaves, who attended parades and veterans reunions at the turn of the twentieth century.

Edgerton’s presence reinforces the Lost Cause view that blacks and whites both shared the goal of an independent Confederate nation.

But there is another aspect of Edgerton’s presence that has not received as much attention. As was the case in Tampa this weekend, Edgerton is routinely introduced and advertised as a former branch president of the NAACP in North Carolina. Edgerton himself reminds his public of this fact at every opportunity. To appreciate this fact keep in mind that most of the small number of African Americans embraced by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage groups openly express politically conservative ideals.

The emphasis on Edgerton’s abandonment of the NAACP points to the appropriation of or need to set the terms of black political action just as white southerners did during the era of Jim Crow. It may seem obvious, but you will never see the Confederate heritage community embrace the Black Lives Matter movement or any form of black political action that challenges the worldview of conservative white Americans.

Edgerton’s presence reinforces a preferred historical narrative within the Confederate heritage community but it also helps to outline the boundaries of accepted black political action. When Edgerton walks through town in his Confederate uniform and carrying a battle flag or when he is engaged in an emotional reading of “I am Their Flag” at an SCV meeting he is signaling to his audience that he understands his place in that community just as former slaves understood their place during the postwar period when in the presence of Confederate veterans.

115 comments… add one
  • Joe Overstreet May 1, 2016

    I know HK and he’s been my friend for quite a few years. I have listened to his speech’s in fact he came our SCV camp to speak last year My Friend, there was Standing Room Only. We in the SCV love and respect HK.
    As for the 65,000 Black Confederate Soldiers and White Confederate Soldier accepting each other with dignity and respect. I don’t know if ever served in the military or have been in combat or not but there is a bond between veterans and that was what was there. Why would hundreds of Black Veterans travel to the Reunions if they were not accepted and welcome? Well, they did and they were. My SCV Camp is 70 white members and 2 black members and they are special to all of us. Please learn before you accuse……Joe

    • Kevin Levin May 1, 2016

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for confirming much of what I am currently thinking and writing about this subject.

    • bob carey May 2, 2016

      Joe,
      If there were as many Black confederate soldiers as you state, then why did the Confederate Congress pass a bill (narrowly) which allowed slaves to serve as soldiers and why was promised emancipation used as a recruiting tool? This was done in March 1865. It seems to me that, if there were the numbers you state then this bill would have been a redundant measure to say the least.

      • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

        In fact there is not a single piece of evidence from this period from a soldier, civilian or politician (state/federal level) pointing out that black men were already serving as soldiers. Not one.

      • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

        There is a great photograph that was taken looking down from a second story window of the Confederate troops in Frederick Maryland. In it you can see for yourself Black men in Grey uniforms. Frederick Douglass wrote about it and was amazed at seeing Armed Black Soldiers. Of course he was probably making it all up, but, he was there. You need to give credit to those men. The legislature in 1865 was not about letting black men Join the Army, it was about Conscripting the men by law into the Army as a last ditch effort.

        • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

          Really, this is your research? 🙂

        • Ken Noe May 3, 2016

          No, sir, he wasn’t there. Douglass wrote his editorial–based on hearsay evidence–in September 1861. The Army of Northern Virginia went through Maryland in September 1862. Unless he owned a time machine, that photo did not lead to his editorial–which, as I point out in a comment below, he later recanted anyway.

        • Scott Ledridge May 5, 2016

          “The legislature in 1865 was not about letting black men Join the Army, it was about Conscripting the men by law into the Army as a last ditch effort.” – You might want to give that order another read. It was about allowing slaves to volunteer… “with the approbation of his master”, of course.

          Not that there was much time, but the turnout was less than expected. I guess those slave owners loved having slaves more than their “freedom”.

          It’s also funny that the claim is made that the “black confederates” would get the same rations as the white troops… not that there was much in the way of rations. But, hey, it was a desperate gesture.

          • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

            This final phase of the debate and its brief implementation is covered extensively by Bruce Levine in his book, Confederate Emancipation.

            • Scott Ledridge May 5, 2016

              I need to check that out. Those must have been some interesting conversations.

      • Bob Carey, how much of the troop strength came from troops controlled by the Confederate Congress? Less than 5%. The majority of the troops came from individual states who did not have such restrictions. Lazy thinking.

        • Kevin Levin Jun 4, 2017

          With all due respect, this comment makes very little sense.

  • Sandi Saunders May 1, 2016

    Yes, they will accept any black person who knows their place just as they will accept any white person who will affirm their efforts. Anyone else, no, not at all. Challenge their paradigm with facts or documented history and see how respectful and open they remain.

  • Ted McKnight May 1, 2016

    Joe, if you monitor this blog, you will realize that not only are they historians, they are often capable of reading minds and comprehending intent of anyone that might hold an opinion that differs from their ‘groupthink’. My favorite was two of Mr. Levin’s students that wanted to purchase small Battle Flags at a gift shop. He was able to provide wise counsel and impose his will so that the youngsters did not not make the life altering mistake of identifying themselves with a flag that is recognized around the world as a symbol of pride, honor and yes, maybe the step of a different drummer. Personally, I hope that they resolve to never again cave to another authoritative figure over such a trivial matter.
    So Joe, just ignore the condescending remarks for they know better than you and I about our reasons for membership in SCV. Could it be that we actually respect Mr. Edgerton even though he is a conservative and not their perceived ‘Step & Fetchit’. Who knows; maybe they despise the South because don’t meet the membership qualifications.

    • Kevin Levin May 1, 2016

      Thanks for taking the time to leave this comment. Very interesting.

    • Sandi Saunders May 2, 2016

      Like documented available history, reading the minds of the SCV or their members and supporters is not needed, they have page after page, blog after blog and event after event that more than documents their intellect, their heart and their ability to exclude facts that are inconvenient.

      As for the ‘Step & Fetchit’ model of black confederate supporters, well that too shows itself loudly and clearly. This is not a mystery, not even a little bit.

    • Andy Hall May 2, 2016

      they are often capable of reading minds

      ___
      It’s not necessary to read people’s minds, if you can read what they write and listen to what they say.

      The modern Confederate heritage movement is infused throughout with modern politics and the culture wars and, in many respects, simply serves as a proxy for for their own political views, which they project onto their ancestors and then point to as validation of their own beliefs. It’s all right there, if you care to look.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro May 2, 2016

      “they are often capable of reading minds and comprehending intent of anyone that might hold an opinion that differs from their ‘groupthink’.”

      But wasn’t the whole Confederate war thing all about an attempt to keep Black people from having minds and opinions of their own?

      • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

        Mr. Levin, I’ll accept your challenge. Before I get back to you I would like to mention that at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. where those senseless and very tragic murders took place by a deranged Roof, there is a Confederate Battle Stick Flag in the Church Cemetery. It flies over the grave of a Black Confederate Soldier. God bless him. Those men fought for their Country much the same as those Black Soldiers in the Continental Army that fought in the Revolutionary War. I suggest you accept the Black people then as now are capable of Patriotism and should be given our respect. My studies show there were 65,000 in the C.S.Army
        of which 13,000 of them lost their live in the fighting and from sickness.

        • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

          It flies over the grave of a Black Confederate Soldier.

          No, it doesn’t.

          I look forward seeing what you cut and paste from around the Web.

          • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

            You’ve been there?

            • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

              Yes. I lead a tour of 30 history teachers through the church and cemetery a couple of years ago. The individual in question was not a soldier, which is easily verified through the available historical record.

              • Ed Holstrom May 2, 2016

                Mr. Levin,
                I believe in your question for me you have proven my point! I do not personally believe that there were any documented black soldiers in the confederate service. As far as undocumented, I wasn’t there so I don’t know or have proof one way or another. As I’m sure most of us agree there is not complete documentation on many facets of the confederate service. I’m making this comment based on three years of research on one of my ancestors.
                You assumed from my comments that I was in agreement with those you took exception to, not so.
                I again state that Mr. Edgerton is entitled to his point of view, whether he can support it with research acceptable to others or not. If we can’t accept that I would suggest that we focus on the candidates both Democratic and Republican for president. I’m of the opinion that HK’s position is more supportable that the whole bunch of candidates’s positions espoused.

              • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

                As far as undocumented, I wasn’t there so I don’t know or have proof one way or another. As I’m sure most of us agree there is not complete documentation on many facets of the confederate service.

                How convenient. What else could we suggest is true of the past with such an argument?

                If we can’t accept that I would suggest that we focus on the candidates both Democratic and Republican for president.

                I would suggest that you start your own blog to comment on the candidates for president. Thanks.

              • Ed Holstrom May 2, 2016

                How convenient?
                How condescending, doesn’t surprise me given your intellectual superiority. As far as me starting my own blog, I enjoy yours too much. Pity we can’t converse on your blog without being condescending or without “taking our ball and going home “

              • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

                Oh, please. Leave a serious comment and you will get a serious response.

                Glad to hear you enjoy the blog.

              • Ed Holstrom May 2, 2016

                Surprise! Another demeaning comment. I am being serious, but I can see how you have trouble taking me serious.
                Not that it matters, but I have a bachelors and masters degree in history and education. I have retired from 40 years in public education. I feel certain that my students and colleagues found me to be reasonably intelligent. So your sarcasm and suggestion that maybe I should put forth serious points for consideration is water off of this ducks back. And yes I do enjoy your blog, it is the best I’ve come across inspite your sometimes condescending posture. Have a great evening!

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                OK. You made your point. I am condescending and unfair. Let’s move on.

              • Will Hickox May 2, 2016

                “How condescending, doesn’t surprise me given your intellectual superiority.”

                When pro-Confederates are called out on their irresponsibility and lack of evidence for their claims, they often fall back on anti-intellectualism. Having training in doing historical research actually becomes a deficiency! It’s more evidence that their version of the truth is just whatever they want it to be.

        • Josh Liller May 2, 2016

          “I suggest you accept the Black people then as now are capable of Patriotism and should be given our respect.”

          The 54th Massachusetts and USCT were not Patriotic?

          “My studies show there were 65,000 in the C.S. Army
          of which 13,000 of them lost their live in the fighting and from sickness.”

          Such claims are meaningless without proof.

          • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

            The claim is meaningless because it conflicts with even a basic understanding of the history of the Confederacy and slavery.

            • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

              I am Southron and a 22 yr US Soldier and I have respect for any honourable Soldier serving his (Or her) country. The 54th Mass was a good unit and served with Honour (Though given an unfair objective) . In the battle of Olustee in Florida (Ocean Pond to you Yanks) They cut and ran. I respect them even though they fought on the wrong side. I expect the same respect for soldiers North or South White or Black. They beleived and they fought and defended their Countries. They’re all gone now. Please leave them with respect.

              • BPS May 3, 2016

                “In the battle of Olustee in Florida (Ocean Pond to you Yanks) They cut and ran.”
                What a slander! Even if you won’t accept
                what the online website: http://www.battleofolustee.org/
                says about their heroic rearguard action, then check out Shelby Foote’s “Civil War” vol 2 page 904. They saved Seymour’s retreat from being a total rout.

              • Josh Liller May 3, 2016

                “They’re all gone now. Please leave them with respect.”

                So claiming there were 65,000 black soldiers in the Confederate army is treating them with respect, but questioning that claim isn’t?

                “I respect them even though they fought on the wrong side.”

                Because when you’re black the side with slavery clearly spelled out in their Ordinances of Secession, enshrined in their Constitution, and endorsed as the cornerstone of their country by their Vice President is the right side?

              • Corey Meyer May 4, 2016

                Leaving them with respect is one thing, making them into something other than what they were to suit your historical needs is misleading and disingenuous.

    • Josh Liller May 2, 2016

      “a flag that is recognized around the world as a symbol of pride, honor and yes, maybe the step of a different drummer.”

      I think you’ve got a pretty skewed view of how the CSA flag is perceived. It’s pretty much only a symbol of pride and honor among Southerners. Most people who wave it do so because they want to be rebellious and defiant.

  • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2016

    How much was HK paid to be there?

    • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

      Jimmy Dick, We paid HK for his mileage and he didn’t even stay overnight My wife and I took him out to dinner. He’s a good man, not a Bill. or Hillary Clinton. He made some money selling and autographing Tee Shirts. Sorry to bust your insult.

      • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

        No, you just proved my point. HK only shows up when he can make money off the gullible like you. You are the source of his revenue. He makes a living from you.

        • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

          But this misses the point of the post, which is that the SCV needs the presence of African Americans like Edgerton just as Confederate veterans did at their own reunions and other events. I don’t see the ‘gullibility’. Both parties feed off one another.

          • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

            Of course they feed off each other. They need one another. It is about presenting perceptions to the public for the SCV. Without people like HK to provide “color” it’s just a bunch of old white men clinging to a fantasy version of history.

            Yet, at the same time HK fleeces these folks for his living while stoking his ego. Reality has no meaning for HK beyond cashing in off of the heritage folks. He has made a pretty good living off of them too.

            If those gullible people stopped paying for HK to show up and stopped buying his merchandise, he wouldn’t show up to their events. If HK didn’t show up to their events, it would diminish their chances of influencing people’s perceptions. In order to pass off the lie of black confederates, they need modern day black people to buy into the lie. HK is a hook for doing so.

            • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

              Yet, at the same time HK fleeces these folks for his living while stoking his ego. Reality has no meaning for HK beyond cashing in off of the heritage folks. He has made a pretty good living off of them too.

              A couple things. First, I have never seen an income report from H.K. so I can’t speak to what he actually earns from these appearances. More importantly, however, I am not willing to assume that there is nothing more at work for H.K. than “cashing in.” My guess is that if you took the time to talk with him you would find much more at work in how he thinks about American history and why he identifies with this particular narrative.

              • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

                I agree that he is getting more than dollars; this kind of recognition nee celebrity is more important than food to some egos, but yes I too am convinced his distorted views on freedom, liberty and rights is as messed up as those of the modern confederates he assists with their narrative. But identifying with them is not the same as being right on the facts, history or effects. Which is why calling it out still matters.

              • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

                I think Andy Hall covered this in a few blog posts over on Dead Confederates several years ago. HK may believe what he says, but he also cashes in on it as well. He makes a living from the heritage loons. https://deadconfederates.com/2012/08/09/black-confederates-a-subsidiary-of-dixie-outfitters/

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                I don’t dispute that he profits from his involvement. What I take issue with is your assumption that there is little more behind his appearances. That may be comforting to believe, but I don’t see any evidence to support such an assertion.

              • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

                He may very well have Southern Heritage stuff at heart, but he still profits from it. It is in his interests to promote the lost cause lies.

                You have your opinion, but I think he is a con man at heart. Also consider that more than anything else, the heritage folks place their ideology in what they want their history to be. It has a lot more to do with how they want things to be NOW than anything else.

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                You have your opinion, but I think he is a con man at heart.

                My response to you is based on the fact that I don’t believe I have sufficient information to make such a claim. You are certainly free to believe what you want.

              • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

                Jimmy, I agree that he is a consummate “con-man” because you do not go from the NAACP to the SCV without a serious motivation. Money, recognition, friendship, even adoration is heaped on him by the flaggers that he would never get at the NAACP or in any other venue for so little substance. That is just my observation because like Mr. Levin, I have never seen his financials and I doubt most appearances are with groups who can afford much of a payment.

                Does that mean I think he would sell out if offered money to do so? No, not really, he made his niche and seems happy with it but there is certainly a con going on.

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                With all due respect, I think these comments tell us much more about you and Jimmy than anything having to do with Edgerton. I for one would like to know more about Edgerton’s political shift and his embrace of the SCV and its preferred historical narrative. Perhaps he had always identified with such a narrative. We don’t know and it doesn’t help one bit to draw conclusions with only a limited amount of evidence.

                Yes, Edgerton is adored by the SCV crowd, but that tells us nothing. Bono is adored by millions of people worldwide and I don’t doubt one bit that he believes in his causes.

              • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

                Kevin,
                I love your blog and value your wisdom, but sometimes you really get snooty when someone challenges one of your assumptions. You have your opinion and that is perfectly fine while I have my own.

                I think Andy has pointed out some correlations (they do not necessarily imply causation!) that have a bearing on my opinion.

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                I appreciate your interest in my blog, but with all due respect, sometimes you sound close to the very people you criticize.

              • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

                Then you should go look in the mirror yourself, Kevin.

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                Got it, Jimmy. Thanks for the feedback. Now let’s move on.

      • Andy Hall May 3, 2016

        We paid HK for his mileage and he didn’t even stay overnight My wife and I took him out to dinner.

        _____

        Edgerton’s stated appearance fee is $20,000. For that kind of money, he should buy his own dinner — and yours, too.

      • Corey Meyer May 4, 2016

        His website does say that he asks $20,000 for a speaking fee…

        • Kevin Levin May 4, 2016

          I find it very hard to believe that individual SCV chapters have a spare $20,000 lying around.

          • Corey Meyer May 5, 2016

            Agreed, nor do many of the flagger groups that have him appear at their flaggings or flag raisings. But he is always there and they just love him.

      • bob carey May 4, 2016

        Joe,
        How many other SCV members were paid mileage to attend the dedication? I would think that any SCV member true to the cause would show up at these events willingly.

  • TFSmith May 1, 2016

    Here’s a question for Joe, or HK, or whoever: where are the commission records for the black confederate officers stored?

    And were commissions for black confederate officers signed by the president, or the secretary of war?

    Thanks!

    • Joe Overstreet May 2, 2016

      As I said there are photographs of Soldiers in Fredrick, MD and a statement from Fredrick Douglas about seeing armed Black Soldiers in the ranks of Confederate Soldiers. You’ve got to remember the Yankee’s won the war and destroyed State, County, even Church and School records. What about military records? If you can do it search the Pension Roles for Black Confederate Soldiers. A lot of them that survived collected $31 a month and it is so recorded. Why is it you believe Blacks serving in the Revolutionary war but, not defending their “Country” in our War Against Yankee Aggression? (You know I really love Spell Check!!)

      • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

        What about military records? If you can do it search the Pension Roles for Black Confederate Soldiers

        You claim to have done research and yet it is statements like this that point to your utter ignorance on this subject. The state pension records that you are referring to were issued to former slaves and not soldiers. Either you have never seen an actual pension document or you can’t read because they explicitly state this right on the document. Thanks for sharing, but I think we are going to move on. I have been researching this subject for years and it is clear that you have nothing of interest to add. Good day.

        • Joe Overstreet May 3, 2016

          So, if I study something other than your Yankee issued grade school text book and see things in a different light than you, then you have the gull to call me ignorant and gullible. I suggest you go home and take your ignorant destructive PC attitude with. You and the likes of you are destroying this Nation. YOU are gullible. I won’t answer you PC crude anymore.

          • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

            Will do. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Overstreet.

            • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

              Yes Kevin Levin, stop forcing people to read your commentary, visit your blog and participate in the comments, you do have a lot of gull!

              • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

                I don’t necessarily expect visitors to accept everything I write without question. In fact, I look forward to the questions and challenges, but given Mr. Overstreet’s comments, he doesn’t appear to be qualified to talk about anything related to this subject. Sigh.

              • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

                Agreed, but they should not act like some captive audience you are force-feeding either.

              • bob carey May 4, 2016

                Kevin, I noticed that everytime a Neo- confederate gets a bit flustered, they play the PC card. If memory serves the only group os Americans who tried to destroy the nation were the people who supported the Confederacy in 1861.

          • Andy Hall May 4, 2016

            “. . . your Yankee issued grade school text book”

            You are aware that K-12 curricula and textbooks are determined by local and state education boards, right?

            • Scott Ledridge May 5, 2016

              Not only that. But, we aren’t asking for Prentice Hall or McGraw/Hill’s take on it. We’re asking for actual research. Primary sources. Yet, every time they are pressed, they resort to these types of comments.

              • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

                The problem is that for many people who push this narrative “research” means little more than cutting and pasting something that they read on a website. It’s why I can anticipate what will be referenced when someone new to this site says they are going to provide evidence.

              • Woodrowfan May 5, 2016

                I am sure that as a fellow teacher, you’ve had to do the same with your students, teaching them that “research” means more than a Google search and Wikipedia. Some people learn than quicker than others.

              • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

                Teaching students how to navigate the Web effectively is one of the most important skills we can teach. Unfortunately, it is not happening nearly enough.

              • Jimmy Dick May 5, 2016

                Absolutely correct! Finding and identifying sources is one of the top three objectives in history education. Doing so via the Internet is part of that. Quality historical education must have that incorporated into the course at all levels of education. My students come to my class woefully lacking in that department which is indicative of multiple high schools failing to teach this in my region.

      • Ken Noe May 3, 2016

        Frederick Douglass never ever said that he had seen black Confederates. That’s not surprising since he spent the first year of the war in Rochester, New York. He did write an editorial about other peoples’ reports of such men. Much less quoted on the internet is the speech he gave a few months later in which he took it all back.

        • Kevin Levin May 3, 2016

          Here are a couple of posts that explore this oft-cited reference to Douglass by Andy Hall: Here and Here.

      • TF Smith May 6, 2016

        No, I was asking about the commissioning records for the black confederate OFFICERS… and were commissions for black confederate officers signed by the president, or the secretary of war?

        Thanks!

        • Kevin Levin May 6, 2016

          🙂

          • TF Smith May 7, 2016

            🙂 It’s a great question, isn’t it? I am eagerly awaiting the informed and detailed response from Joe and H.K.; I’m especially interested in the BLACK confederate officers who received field grade ranks, like Major Delany in the USCTs.

            • Kevin Levin May 8, 2016

              Don’t hold your breadth. 🙂

              • TF Smith May 8, 2016

                I’m sure there will be lots of detailed information on these men.:)

  • Ed May 2, 2016

    I am not a member of the SCV, but I do respect one’s right to not only join but to be proud of their membership. I can not see into their hearts and thus don’t know how they may feel about political issues. I do know it is inappropriate to paint all with the same brush, just as it would be to assume that there is a homogeneous group of “conservative white Americans” who all share the same values and opinions.
    I have seen some individuals who are very intelligent, who think their intelligence and their learned knowledge gives them better insight into, not only the historical significance of an issue but into the heart, mind, and motives of others who have opinions on the same issue.
    I’m not suggesting that one should not have convictions or a backbone, I’m suggesting that no matter how strong your conviction, how great your knowledge, you can not see into the hearts and minds of others.
    Last thought, you would think that those are the most learned among us, those that have been teachers would understand this, and would present the facts as they have discovered to let their students draw their own conclusions. If not, they are not teachers at all.

    • Kevin Levin May 2, 2016

      I do know it is inappropriate to paint all with the same brush, just as it would be to assume that there is a homogeneous group of “conservative white Americans” who all share the same values and opinions.

      I agree that it is important not to generalize. My thoughts on this are based on my own reading and interactions with members of this community. Perhaps you can point me to African Americans, who have embraced the black Confederate myth, that fall outside of my political reference. Thanks for the comment.

    • Sandi Saunders May 2, 2016

      I was not aware that anyone has claimed to “see into their hearts” but by virtue of joining any group with an agenda, it is not a far limb to go out on when you expect someone supports that agenda. The broad brush is therefore self-applied.

      There is a very “homogeneous group of “conservative white Americans” who all share the same values and opinions”; that is not an assumption, they shout it often.

      If you think that the SCV or their flagger supporters do not “think their intelligence and their learned knowledge gives them better insight into, not only the historical significance of an issue but into the heart, mind, and motives of others who have opinions on the same issue” then you clearly do not know any of them.

      When someone is as vocal as Edgerton, the SCV, flaggers and “conservative white Americans”, it is not hard to see into their hearts and minds at al.

      Mr. Levin is always showing the facts and allows others, students and blog readers alike to draw their own conclusions. That is what makes him an excellent teacher. Many do not care for that approach when passion and propaganda work for them.

  • msb May 2, 2016

    He is not their flag; he is their fig leaf.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 2, 2016

    I was just talking with a friend last night who went on about “free Black Southerners who owned property (and some were slaveholders) who took up arms to defend their property and/or their communities from Yankee invasion.” Seriously, does anyone know of any such story?

    My friend also asked if there were any African-American Confederate soldiers. As I told him, no one has found any yet (as in recruited/enlisted/paid/and in combat) but I would imagine that at some point, some Black person fired a gun at a Union soldier. But that could have been a slave doing what his master told him to do.

    • Woodrowfan May 2, 2016

      I can imagine a handful of African-Americans, either slave or free, taking a shot at Union troops. In a large enough population there would likely be some contrarians who deliberately go against what the rest of their fellows are doing, or someone willing to do anything to gain favor. Just look at HK Edgerton himself. He’ll dress up in his gray uniform and perform his song and dance for the whites to earn both their praise and their $$$.

      Is it really hard to imagine a few slaves in 1864 or so deciding to keep in their masters’ good graces by picking up a rifle and shooting at strangers? Or telling their Masters that they did so? Slaves and free blacks alike learned early on to keep that “mask” on in front of whites, to hid their true feeling and motivations to survive. Sometimes that meant cooperating with their own oppressors. To use one real-life example, when 77 slaves in DC tried to escape on the “Pearl” in 1848 they were betrayed by a fellow slave. He betrayed them apparently out of a desire for revenge (one account says one of the young women trying to escape jilted him, another says one of the escaping slaves owed him money) I suspect he may also have wanted to gain favor in the eyes of the whites that, after all, held power over him.

      That said, the act of a slave (or a freeman) picking up a rifle and firing a shot at a Union soldier would NOT make him a soldier. The Lost Causers claim blacks served as regular troops. One recently told me (online) that the CSA did the Union one better by paying their black troops the same amount they paid their white troops! But even if they identified one, would it matter? How many hundreds of thousands of slaves escaped to Union lines? Over 180,000 black men from north and south served as USCTs. How would one black confederate, or even a dozen, or a hundred, measure up against that?

      The Lost Causers try to imagine all these black troops in gray in an attempt to deny slavery as a cause for the war, or even (in many cases) to deny that slavery was wrong. But that’s a bit like showing a German Jew served in the Germany military in WWII proves the Holocaust never happened. This isn’t science where a single negative example disproves a theory. This is history, which is made up of people, who often act in inexplicable ways. A single black man picking up a gun to try to fight along Lee. I can see that. What the evidence disproves is that he had many fellows.

      • Ed Holstrom May 3, 2016

        Woodrowfan,

        Agreed! Thank your your comments, you make a great argument!

      • hankc9174 May 3, 2016

        Civil War soldiers were ardent letter writers and zealous diarists.

        the advocates of ‘confederates of color’ surely have letters from confederate soldiers speaking of sleeping, eating, drilling and fighting alongside black men.

        surgeons and orderlies must have related amputating limbs of wounded African-American confederates and treating their illnesses.

        union soldiers surely noted when they buried the many black confederates killed in action and the dead must have been mentioned in letters to the home folk.

        • Woodrowfan May 4, 2016

          not to mention several decades worth of “Confederate Veteran” magazine. I’ve read a few articles by CSA vets there, and their only references to black soldiers are to those on the Union side. On the Confederate side the only blacks mentioned are servants, cooks, ditch-diggers, teamsters, etc.

          • Kevin Levin May 4, 2016

            The narrative that frames Confederate Veteran at the turn of the twentieth century is one of loyal slaves and not soldiers. Confederate veterans would be utterly confused by our obsession with soldiers.

            • Bryan Cheeseboro May 5, 2016

              Personally, I think they would be utterly offended and disgusted by the suggestion that Black men were accepted as soldiers for their cause.

  • bob carey May 2, 2016

    Kevin,
    The only thing I’m sure about with the current crop of presidential candidates is that none of them have an appreciation or understanding of US history.

  • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

    Oddly enough, I have always believed that what people say, how they say it, every action they take and every action they do not take does indeed tell much more about them than whatever or whomever they are speaking about. In fact, I count on it.

    • Andy Hall May 3, 2016

      Sandi wrote:
      ____

      I agree that he is a consummate “con-man” because you do not go from the NAACP to the SCV without a serious motivation.

      ____

      Edgerton had been under growing criticism for a long time in the late 1990s for his leadership of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. The chapter was in the tank financially, although that seems to have been attributed to Edgerton’s mismanagement and incompetence, rather than anything more sinister. The final straw for the state organization was when he teamed up the chapter with an attorney in nearby Black Mountain, who agreed to do some work on a housing lawsuit. The lawyer was Kirk Lyons, who at the time was mostly known for publicly representing the Klan and various white supremacist groups around the country. Lyons and his brother-in-law, Neil Payne, were at that time heading a group called CAUSE, which was a white identity group. Edgerton, Payne and Lyons were photographs at a restaurant in Asheville wearing napkins on their heads, hamming it up as klansmen; the NAACP didn’t find that very amusing.

      Anyway, so in 1999 the state NAACP ousted Edgerton from his position, and a few months later he began appearing, under Lyons’ mentorship, as a Confederate flag advocate. About that same time, Lyons named him to the board of his law practice, which seems dubious given Edgerton’s apparent lack of any real legal knowledge. Lyons has repeatedly used Edgerton (“my best friend is a black man!”) to deflect accusations based on his on (Lyons’) past affiliations. Under Lyons’ tutelage, Edgerton took on a whole new mission and purpose.

      Over the years, Edgerton has become less joined-at-the-hip with Lyons, but Edgerton’s own enterprise, Southern Heritage 411, is actually a for-profit corporation, based in Georgia (not North Carolina, where Edgerton is from) and run by Dewey Barber, owner of Dixie Outfitters. Edgerton is the public face of SH411, but what role he actually plays in its management, I’m not sure.

      • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

        Guess that would help explain the “motivation”. It is fascinating, sometimes frightening, the associations people make and what comes of them. Thank you!

        • Andy Hall May 3, 2016

          The other thing to know is that during that same time frame, 2000-ish, Lyons was one of the key players, along with Ron “Ponzi” Wilson and a few others, in churning the leadership of the SCV to make it a more hard-edged, aggressive organization and to purge the “grannies” who were deemed insufficiently unreconstructed. As I understand, whole SCV camps were disbanded that didn’t live up the standards of the new regime.

          • Sandi Saunders May 3, 2016

            Whoa, sounds hard core.

      • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2016

        I have a very strong feeling that if most of the leaders in the heritage movement’s bank records were checked, one would discover how they profit from their activities.

  • Erick Hare May 5, 2016

    I am a bit late to this discussion and I know I’ve made this point before in other discussions here about the propaganda surrounding the “Black Confederate soldier” mythology, but it bears repeating now.

    Robert E. Lee was promoted from his rank of general of the Army of Northern Virginia on January 1, 1865. Ten days later Lee wrote a letter to Andrew Hunter on January 11, 1865 about how for the Confederacy to survive they would need to start enlisting blacks into the Confederate army. In the same letter Lee stated that in his opinion the best relations between the races was that of master and slave, and that if he could Lee would continue to enlist men from the white population of the South, but to do so would overtax the white population of the South.

    To argue that there were blacks enlisted and fighting for the Confederacy prior to the Confederate Congress passing legislation to slow the enlistment of blacks in the Confederate armies is to call Robert E. Lee either delusional or a flat out liar. I don’t think the people propagating the “Black Confederate soldier” mythology intend to do this, but in making such claims they do unequivocally.

    Also, as Kevin has already referenced here, Bruce Levine in his book “Confederate Emancipation” found in his research correspondence between Southern planters and Jefferson Davis up until less than six weeks prior to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse where the planters refused to emancipate their slaves for enlistment in the Army because they wanted compensation from the Federal Government for the loss of their property when their slaves would be emancipated after the war was on.

    Either there were no “Black Confederate soldiers” or Robert E. Lee and Southern ancestry were compulsive liars or delusional. Pick your poison.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 5, 2016

    Forgive me if this has already been posted or addressed but here is a short video clip of H.K. addressing how he went from the NAACP to the SCV.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA1bZmlSxCc

    I met H.K. last year at the Appomattox 150th (I’m an African-American and I reenact with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry). I think he’s nuts but I wanted to meet him just to say I did. He was pretty much what you get in his videos. I actually think he’s a very smart person who has just hitched himself to a big lie. He kept saying to me, “I’ll bet I could get you to take that uniform off” referring to my Union soldier impression. There’s nothing he could say to make me change my mind about my understanding of history so I thought the whole thing was kind of funny. Anyway, I suppose I’m naive but my shaking his hand and talking to him really pissed off some other people. Someone even called him “dangerous and evil.” I think that’s going to far. He’s a fool but there’s nothing illegal about what he’s doing.

    • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

      Thanks for the link, Bryan. I’ve seen this before. It is worth watching as it provides some insight into his thinking.

      • Bryan Cheeseboro May 5, 2016

        It’s hard to know why the man does what he does. Honestly, I don’t think trying to figure out his motives really even matters. The point is, he’s out there, he’s making a name for himself and he provides comfort to those who want to remember the Confederacy as something it was not.

        • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

          I am not sure I agree. How people relate or identify with the past is often complex. Edgerton’s motivation may even be more important given that he falls outside of how most black Americans think about this particular historical event.

    • Andy Hall May 6, 2016

      It’s an interesting video, but Edgerton omits the controversy surrounding his leadership of the Asheville Chapter and its finances, that’s completely separate from his relationship with Lyons.

      Edgerton also depicts Lyons as a sort of an intermediary/mediator with groups like the Klan, but in the late 1990s Lyons was well-known for actively espousing white nationalist views, and his extensive professional and personal ties to such groups. Edgerton is extremely self-serving in both what he says in this interview, and what he leaves out.

      • Kevin Levin May 6, 2016

        Thanks for the additional link.

      • Bryan Cheeseboro May 6, 2016

        “White Nationalism” appears to be an ideology that tolerates non-White people as long as those people accept White “culture” as the only American culture that should be recognized, at least publicly. If H.K. Edgerton defined his ethnicity as African-American and was vocal about Black history, Lyons would despise him.

        • Andy Hall May 6, 2016

          Meh. In 1993 Lyons went on a popular syndicated talk show and suggested that sending African Americans to Africa was desirable, but impractical — “pie in the sky,” he said — so a better option might be to “divvy up the country.”

          That’s the reputation of the guy Edgerton partnered the local NAACP chapter with.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 5, 2016

    “Edgerton’s motivation may even be more important given that he falls outside of how most black Americans think about this particular historical event.”

    I sometimes wonder if what motivates Edgerton and other African-American neo-Confederates is a desire to be different than the stereotypes expected of Black people. When everyone expects you to be an Obama-supporting Democrat, what could be a bigger curveball than waving a Confederate flag? I don’t think many people want to feel like their views have already been decided for them.

    • Kevin Levin May 5, 2016

      It’s possible, but I suspect that there might also be something attractive about the narrative itself that is lacking in the story of slavery.

      • Bryan Cheeseboro May 5, 2016

        “I suspect that there might also be something attractive about the narrative itself that is lacking in the story of slavery.”

        And I think for some Blacks who buy into Black Confederates, the slave who “fought” for the South is perhaps less degraded by bondage.

  • Woodrowfan May 10, 2016

    Did you see Mr. Edgerton just got into an altercation with some Klansmen in Florida/??

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