A few months ago I had a conversation with Alan Levinovitz, who teaches at James Madison University. As a new member of the community there were a number of things that struck Alan as strange and begging for explanation. At the top of the list is the local Dixie Outfitters store in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Alan asked if I could provide some context for the store’s presence and stock, especially those H.K. Edgerton t-shirts. The inquiry was in preparation for an article he was planning for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
The article is now online, which I highly recommend. A few of my comments about the myth of the black Confederate made it into the piece.
“People don’t believe in the black Confederate narrative because they’re crazy,” explains historian Kevin Levin. “They believe it because they read it. It’s on a website that looks professional, has all the bells and whistles, and includes images, primary sources of all kinds. How could it not be true?”
Levin’s long-running blog, Civil War Memory, is on the front lines in a battle between established historians and a vocal minority who insist that most academics are biased liberals bent on slandering the South. Dixie Outfitters is a part of this minority, and its company website includes a history section with over eighty links to information about black Confederates.
If you want a sense of how obsessed some Confederate heritage advocates are about the battle flag look no further. I came across this gem of a thread on the Confederate Flaggers Facebook page earlier today and it doesn’t disappoint. Billy Bearden is an active Flagger and on occasion will share a thought or two on this site. I like having him around. Once in a while he offers something worthy of reflection, but this clearly represents a walk off the deep end.
No one on this page seems to know why the Covington (Tenn.) chapter of the SCV chose to remove the battle flag from the cemetery in favor of a First National Flag and as far as I can tell no one has bothered to ask. I actually don’t have a problem with the display of battle flags in Confederate cemeteries. It seems to me that the people who are offended by the symbol are not likely to visit and if its presence helps those who wish to commemorate/remember these men than so be it. Perhaps the group removed it because the battle flag has proven to be too much of a distraction from the men they wish to honor. Perhaps the group understands that their ability to reach out to the broader community will be hampered by all the negative attention that particular flag will likely generate. Ultimately, what is more important, debating the divisive history of the flag or sharing the stories of the men the SCV are committed to honoring and a time when that project is under assault?
Forrest was known as a very humane slave trader…. He never split families.
That, my friends, is a morally bankrupt position. What I find truly startling, however, is that anyone would go ahead and actually make this point on television for public consumption. Millar certainly deserves some kind of award. At least H.K. Edgerton decided to leave the costume at home. Their only hope last night was that the state government would step in with legislation that would make it illegal to change the names of parks named after military leaders. You gotta love the irony in that.
Regardless of whether they like it or not, it’s time for Confederate heritage advocates to adopt a new strategy. No one should have been surprised by the council’s decision, least of all the SCV. They should have from the beginning jumped on board with a name change that added Ida B. Wells to the park. Now they stand to lose Forrest completely from the landscape.
And when you say idiotic things about “human slave traders” you deserve to lose it all.