Some of you are, no doubt, familiar with the story out of North Carolina involving H.K. Edgerton and Councilman Cecil Bothwell, who refused to cite God in his oath of office. Apparently, the good state of North Carolina has a provision that outlaws atheists from public office. Please correct me if I have the details wrong. To be completely honest I don’t really care about the details. What I find hilarious is that H.K. and others have decided to make this an issue. Of course any provision along these lines violates the U.S. Constitution which explicitly rejects any religious test for public office. That seems reasonable enough to me. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it at the time until I came across this wonderful cartoon that appeared in one of the local newspapers in Asheville, North Carolina.
Here’s a sure fire way to announce to the world just how irrelevant you are. More to the point, the SCV would have us believe that this is nothing more than an attempt to honor the men who carried this flag into battle, but anyone with an undergraduate degree in child psychology can see that this is a classic example of children who are desperate to be seen and acknowledged. The best part of this ceremony, however, is the inclusion of everyone’s favorite black Confederate, H.K. Edgerton. He is in classic form:
This place should be full of black folks. I don’t know why [I’m the only one here]. Maybe your newspaper should have told them to come to celebrate and sing Dixie and salute our flag. It’s a shame white folks and black folks make people think this is an evil flag. This is a southern flag. You can’t attack this flag and call yourself a southerner. You can call yourself a traitor….I represent four and a half million black folks who’ve been beat down and would love to be here, too. If they tell you they wouldn’t be, the first thing you ask is where they’re from. Then you tell them to go on back.
Tracking Civil War memory can at times be downright fun. Way to go boys.
If the SCV were really interested in ensuring that the flag is interpreted “properly” they would retire it and push for its display only in museums where it can be given the kind of attention it deserves. As always my thinking on this issue has been influenced by John Coski’s The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2006).
You can imagine my surprise when I noticed this comment from H.K. Edgerton in response to the last post. For those of you who do not know of Mr. Edgerton, he is one of the more outspoken and charismatic proponents of the black Confederate myth. Interestingly, Mr. Edgerton is African American. He can be found in a Confederate uniform and carrying a Confederate flag on long treks through the South. His last mission took him to the inauguration of Barack Obama in January. I’ve offered extensive commentary about Mr. Edgerton over the course of the life of this blog, which you can find at the bottom.
It is unfortunate that those of you who were educated in the Federal school system have such a dim view of the honorable Black confederate soldier. If you can be so proud of the Black Union soldier who received half the pay of his counterpart, one who fought with a bayonet at his back from his white counterpart, watched as his wives were raped by the union soldier and used as concubine, watched as his Southern Black and White families homes were burned, food stuffs to feed innocent women and children stolen, animals killed, women raped and murdered. You go ahead and be proud of the Battle of the Craters, and Denzelle Washington’s Glory as the Union Whites murdered their black’s returning to their lines.
Here in the South we shall continue to honor Napoleon Nelson ant the other the Black men who rode with the Honorable General Nathan Bedford Forrest , and the likes of Holt Collier, Levi Carnine, Rev. Mack Lee and celebrate Dick Poplar in Petersburg, Virginia. The shame is that you truly believe the propaganda of your Northern Master.
Unfortunately, Edgerton’s comment follows the standard Lost Cause narrative along with vague comparisons/references to the challenges that blacks faced in the Union army as well as the North generally. Still, it’s nice to know that he is reading the blog. See the following posts for additional commentary about Edgerton:
I guess I should have anticipated a decision by H.K. to use the Obama election/inauguration to unify white and black American around the Confederate flag. My local newspaper is reporting that H.K. is making his way up Rt. 29, which will take him right through Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington, D.C. I can’t tell where along the highway he is, but if I find out I am going to make an attempt to meet him in person. No doubt, he is freezing his ass off, but that is a small price to pay when the goal is to highlight the loyalty that African Americans demonstrated as Confederate soldiers throughout the war. Some choice quotes from the article:
I’m an African-American and I’m a Southerner and I believe my heritage, which is represented by the flag bearing the Christian Cross of St. Andrew, is being ignored and destroyed. It’s continuing to divide the black folks and the white folks who have a lot in common.
Mr. Obama said he is about unity and bringing this nation together. If he is truly a man of unity, I hope he will consider showing the Southerner that [the Southerner] is an important part of this country. He could have a Confederate color guard at the White House,” he said. “He could give the Confederate flag a respected place as part of the history and heritage of this country.
It does not represent slavery, although slavery was a fact of life. The flag represents a heritage, a way of life that my forebears had. It represents the men and the families that lived together and fought together to preserve their country from invasion. My family volunteered for the Confederacy and fought side-by-side with white Southerners and Indian Southerners. They are all my family.
I am Southerner. This flag is not about slavery, it’s about family and God and country. I have more in common with fellow Southerners like George Wallace than I do with [the Rev.] Al Sharpton. I’m from the South. I’m of the South and my family is Southern, be they white, red, black or yellow. We share a heritage and a way of life.
I’ve commented extensively on the issue of black Confederates/Confederate slaves so I will refrain from belaboring the point. However, it is worth reflecting a bit on Edgerton’s emphasis on the Confederate experience as somehow constituting a point of unity between black and white Americans. It’s not simply a reflection of poor history, but also of the Confederacy’s overwhelming place in Southern/American memory. Of course this is no surprise given its importance to the region and the nation, but it clearly overshadows in a way which minimizes other significant moments in the history of the South that had the potential to bridge the racial divide. Consider the Populist Movement led by Tom Watson, not to mention the Civil Rights Movement itself.
It’s unfortunate that H.K.’s embrace of American history is ultimately a gross distortion of it. Fortunately, it wouldn’t take much to correct it once he arrives in D.C. I recommend that he approach the reenactors in the 54th Massachusetts and request to march in the inaugural parade as part of a legitimate historically-based unit. You want to honor black Southerners who sacrificed everything for their families and nation (even at a time when the Dred Scott ruling was still on the books) than don that blue uniform and acknowledge the heroism of your fellow black Southerners (1).
(1) Of course, I am aware that the 54th was made up primarily of free blacks from the North, but you get my point.
Just in case you couldn’t make the annual Gathering of Eagles event in Winchester, here is a preview with our favorite black Confederate, H.K. Edgerton. By the way, Pickett’s Gamecocks “are specifically recruiting African-Americans interested in black Confederate or civilian portrayals.” I assume by civilian, they mean slave portrayals. This year participants will debate the legality of secession. Here is a description of the event:
The “Civil War Gathering of Eagles” is an educational event brought to life by living historians from across the country. The Civil War personas, discuss the events of the war brought to life through their first person portrayals. Issues discussed during this two and a half day event range from the tactics used to the causes of the War and the occasional heated discussion concerning the legality of secession based on the Constitution and other sources used by our Founding Fathers to establish the “united States of America”. (1)
Why the footnote, you ask? Well, they want to make sure you know that “united States of America is a direct quote taken from the Declaration of Independance. [sic]” Sounds like a real whoot.