Staking Out a Position on the Confederate Flag

On more than one occasion I’ve recommended John Coski’s wonderful book, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem. There is nothing else like it. Coski offers a very readable and balanced view of the history of the flag. Toward the end, Coski offers his own interpretation of how to move forward with the debate over the public display of the Confederate flag. It involves compromises from all parties with a stake in this ongoing drama over history and heritage. [click to continue…]

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Is This An Appropriate Use of the Confederate Flag?

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Matthew Heimbach at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers are Richmond’s self-described defenders of Confederate heritage. At the center of their advocacy is the belief that the Confederate flag has been hijacked by individuals and groups who have used it for purposes other than to honor their Confederate ancestors. This belief is at the center of their ongoing protest at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and recently in front of the Museum of the Confederacy – Appomattox, owing to the latter’s failure to fly a Confederate battle flag on the walkway leading to the entrance. They would have their fellow Richmonders believe that the meaning behind the planned placement of a large Confederate flag along I-95 in late September is solely about honoring the soldier. Not so fast.

The Virginia Flaggers believe they have established for themselves a high standard for the proper use of the Confederate flag. But when it comes time to defending choices about their own use of the Confederate flag they are silent. The photograph above shows Matthew Heimbach “flagging” the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. As yesterday’s post showed, Heimbach has marched front and center with the Virginia Flaggers on at least one occasion and, last night Flagger spokesman, Tripp Lewis, claimed him as a member. [click to continue…]

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Who Are the Virginia Flaggers?

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Update: Well, you heard it here first. Tripp Lewis of the Virginia Flaggers declares that Matthew Heimbach is a “good guy.”

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The Virginia Flaggers are still intent on placing a large Confederate flag off of Interstate 95 near Richmond, Virginia by the end of September. The Richmond media has interviewed Susan Hathaway and others about their goals in placing the flag in such a prominent place and their preferred interpretation of the Confederate flag. What the major news channels have not done, however, is look into the membership of the Flaggers and whether their talk of Confederate heritage reflects the broader values of the Richmond community.

Thanks to Brooks Simpson (and here) and Andy Hall we are learning more about individual members (or individuals who are claimed as members by the Flaggers) such as Matthew Heimbach. Susan Hathaway and the rest of the Flaggers have gone on record attacking prominent members of Richmond’s history and museum community for their supposed Confederate heritage betrayals. The Virginia Flaggers should be held accountable to the very same standard. Richmonders should ask themselves whether Matthew Heimbach’s view of Confederate heritage represents their own. [click to continue…]

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A Forgotten Battle For the Second Amendment

Thomas NastOne of the most interesting sections of Carole Emberton’s new book, Beyond Redemption, is her analysis of the relationship between gun ownership among newly-freed slaves, voting, citizenship and violence in the postwar South. By 1860 service in the military had already expanded the suffrage to include a large percentage of white men. The right to vote, achieved through military service defined what it meant to lay claim to citizenship in the United States. The defense of home and nation not only opened the doors to voting for many white men, but the weapons used proved to be extremely useful in the often violent world of political campaigns and gatherings on election day.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the claims to citizenship and the vote by a formerly enslaved population rested directly on the right to bear arms. Former black Union soldiers often purchased their weapons upon leaving the army while many others purchased weapons with what little money they earned. They did so to protect themselves, but also as symbols of freedom and independence. The right to own a weapon constituted a tangible break with a past in which masters controlled the conditions in which their slaves could shoulder a gun. Most importantly, gun ownership was understood as a direct claim through the Second Amendment to the rights of citizenship and the vote. [click to continue…]

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A Black Confederate We Can All Live With

black ConfederateEarlier this month Schuyler Kropf shared the story of Polly Sheppard, who was surprised to find the grave of a black Confederate soldier in the cemetery of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston. The individual in question is Louis B. Middleton, whose grave is marked with a soldiers’ headstone. This has all the earmarks of another in a long line of distorted stories about blacks who somehow managed to evade Confederate law and a society committed to keeping weapons out of their hands. [click to continue…]

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