In response to the call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds in Columbia, SC, following the horrific shootings in Charleston back in June 2015, the Sons of Confederate Veterans issued a statement that referenced the black Confederate myth. Their argument is simple: If black men served as soldiers than the battle flag cannot be interpreted as a symbol of racism.
Well, it looks like the SCV is rallying the black troops once again, this time in Lexington, Virginia. Every January they hold a parade through the downtown area as part of their Lee-Jackson Day festivities, but this year a group calling itself CARE Rockingham beat them to the punch and scheduled their own parade to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.
The SCV decided to re-schedule their parade, but to prove that they do not embrace a racist agenda the following statement was issued that reads in part:
The Sons of Confederate Veteran’s membership is open to all races and creeds and has minority members upon its rolls. The Confederate army was not segregated and included many free and slave Blacks upon which the army would not have been able to survive otherwise… Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were both opposed to slavery. Robert E. Lee’s uncle had lead the early fight in Virginia to first stop the spread of slavery and to seek to abolish it. Stonewall Jackson famously lead his Sunday School for local blacks, teaching them to read and write against the laws of the time and through his efforts some of those students went on to prominent rolls in the future. Lexington has a school named for Rev. Lyburn Downing who’s parents were taught by Jackson and for which he installed stain glass windows honoring Jackson in his church. In Lexington you will find the grave of a free black Confederate soldier, Levi Miller, who prominently had the large letters C.S.A. placed on his grave marker.
It’s all there. Lee was anti-slavery. Jackson was the ‘black man’s best friend.’ Levi Miller was a soldier in the Confederate army. In fact, he was a camp slave. One man in the unit in which he was present described him as “a pet to every soldier.”
The SCV can’t catch a break, but as I have said before, they have no one to blame but themselves. Fewer and fewer people are embracing this interpretation of the Confederate past or see racial toleration expressed in the group’s current membership and activities.
A museum dedicated to the SCV’s preferred interpretation of the war could not have come at a better time.