I apologize for not being able to offer a more appropriate post title, but I am not sure what this is. Perhaps you can tell me.
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?
It comes down to this: Southern heritage advocates are their own worst enemies. We can see this clearly at work in last night’s decision on the part of the Memphis City Council to change the names of three parks named in honor of the Confederacy. Forrest Park is at center stage. In an interview with a local news reporter, Lee Millar of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had this to say in defense of Forrest:
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.
This story just keeps getting more bizarre by the hour. Earlier today it looked like the Memphis City Council was going to vote to change the name of Forrest Park to Forrest – Wells Park, in honor of Ida B. Wells. Of course, local heritage organizers decided to shuttle in H.K. Edgerton to speak on behalf of a slave trader and member of the Ku Klux Klan. A few hour ago it looked like the council was going to rush through a vote to beat the passage of legislation on the state level (PDF) that would make it illegal to change the name of any public space named after a military figure. The latest news is that a decision was made to temporarily change the names of three city parks:
- Forrest Park will now be known as Health Sciences Park.
- Confederate Park is now Memphis Park.
- Jefferson Davis Park is now Mississippi River Park.
And there you have it. I assume they will re-visit this issue at a later date. As always, I am happy with what the local community decides through their local elected officials.
That said, I do hope they decide to amend the name of the park to include Wells rather than discard Forrest entirely. The dedication of a park after such an individual tells us something important about the history of race and white power in Memphis’s history. Tearing it down does little more than erase that history from public view. Adding a monument and/or marker to Ida B. Wells compliments the Forrest monument in any number of ways. It reflects the voices of a part of the community that was prevented from taking part in the process that led to the original dedication and, more importantly, it reflects a stark change of values.
Think of the interpretive possibilities: a woman who fought for civil rights and worked tirelessly to bring an end to lynchings alongside a slave-trader, Confederate general responsible for one of the largest massacres during the Civil War and member of the KKK. If Forrest did make an honest overture toward the black community at the very end of his life than it should, in some way, be acknowledged. Does he deserve to be celebrated for it? No.
I had no idea that there is now a chapter of Flaggers in North Carolina. It would be a stretch to draw any type of formal connection with the Flaggers in Virginia. It’s the same inane rhetoric about a subject they apparently know very little about. In this case, it’s a new exhibit about Lincoln on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. These people have nothing to say about the actual exhibit beyond vague accusations of Lincoln as a war criminal. Kirk Lyons (misspelled by the media as Lion) and H.K. Edgerton were in attendance, but all they can manage is the same old dog and pony show that has become their trademark.
It looks like some of the students had a good laugh at their expense.