H.K. Edgerton Entertains the Old White South One Last Time

Not too long ago I suggested that H.K. Edgerton’s performance is geared to and best received by white Southerners, who find vindication in his narrative of slavery as a benign institution and the peaceful co-existence of the races during the antebellum period and through the war into Reconstruction and beyond.   Today I learned that H.K. is going to retrace his steps on this 10th anniversary of his famous trek across the South.

Now, on the tenth anniversary of his original sojourn, he’s preparing to do it all again because, he says, “We are in the middle of the hundred and fiftieth anniversary observance of the War Between the States and it is nothing but one big propaganda tirade against the Southland of America. The official party line is that the whole cause of the war was slavery and it either covers up or distorts the whole great story of how these two races really lived side by side. So I’m gonna tell the truth the way I did ten years ago, all the way across the South, one step at a time”

No doubt, we will be treated to the same antics that can be found on numerous posts on this blog.  Don’t look for H.K. in the black community or doing living history programs in predominantly black schools.  If anything, we’ve seen the limits of his reach and it is squarely within that small group of white Americans, who for whatever reason, cling to a Lost Cause narrative about slavery and race relations.  This will likely be his final hurrah given his age.  Don’t look for anyone in the black community to carry the colors forward for H.K.  As we all know the vast majority of African Americans have been rightfully dismissive.  We should also keep in mind, however, that there really isn’t a significant white audience waiting to be entertained by these modern-day minstrels.  It’s a mark of just how far we’ve come.

A clear sense of his popularity can be found in his plea for shoes.

“I bad need some new walking shoes,” he says, “but good ones cost money. If anybody wants to help, they can go to Southern Heritage 411’s website [above], and God bless them.”

And just in case you were wondering, Southern Heritage 411 is not a non-profit.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

11 comments… add one
  • Bummer Oct 18, 2012 @ 8:35

    After reading your article and the comments, I felt that H.K. and his re-enactment was so against the African American grain of thought, that a Union General’s outburst of racism might be appropriate.


    • Kevin Levin Oct 18, 2012 @ 10:15

      Hmmm…still don’t get it.

      • Bummer Oct 18, 2012 @ 11:11

        I have always enjoyed Grant’s thinking, simple and logically direct. When I read your H.K. article it reminded me of Order 11 and how politically inappropriate it was written. Completely opposite of the leader’s normal mode of operation.


      • Michael Douglas Oct 22, 2012 @ 17:31

        Nor do I, Kevin. That’s because it partakes of the very essence of the term non sequitur.

        Bummer, I’m not sure what an “African American grain of thought” is; but I can tell you, with a very high degree of certainty, that most African Americans who are aware of him view him with varying combinations of cringing embarrassment, pity and loathing; right along with the memory of toadying, soft-shoe, banjo-playing minstrels, who performed for the benefit of white men, that Edgerton resurrects.

        • Bummer Oct 23, 2012 @ 6:09

          I view H.K. exactly as you do. I was surprised when I reviewed Kevin’s piece and could not believe that H.K. was somehow not satirizing the black participation in the confederate cause.
          That irony reminded of Grant’s order No. 11. So out of step with current political perception.
          Why it reminded of order No. 11, I don’t know. However, it did, so be it.
          Regarding the term,non sequitur, as a literary device, an irrelevant, often humorous comment to a preceding topic or statement.


  • Bummer Oct 18, 2012 @ 5:01

    Grant’s Jewish Order No.11/Lincoln’s Immediate Revocation

    During the Civil War, in 1862, General Grant issued Order No. 11, calling for the removal of “Jews as a class” from his Department of the Tennessee.

    The immediate cause of the removal was the illegal trade of Southern cotton.

    Grant was responsible for trade licenses in his area. Without these licenses traders bribed Union officers to allow them to buy Southern cotton without official authorization. As one astounded reporter told the Secretary of War, “Every colonel, captain or quartermaster is in a secret partnership with some operator in cotton; every soldier dreams of adding a bale of cotton to his monthly pay.”

    “I have long since believed that in spite of all the vigilance that can be infused into post commanders, the special regulations of the Treasury Department have been violated, and that mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders. So well satisfied have I been of this that I instructed the commanding officers at Columbus to refuse all permits to Jews to come South, and I have frequently had them expelled from the department, but they come in with their carpet-sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel anywhere. They will land at any wood yard on the river and make their way through the country. If not permitted to buy cotton themselves, they will act as agents for someone else, who will be at military post with a Treasury permit to receive cotton and pay for it in Treasury notes which the Jew will buy up at an agreed rate, paying gold.”

    Grant Letter to C. P. Wolcott, Assistant Secretary of War, Washington (17 December 1862).

    “I. The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department.
    II. Within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order by Post Commanders, they will see that all of this class of people are furnished with passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification, will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners unless furnished with permits from these Head Quarters.
    III. No permits will be given these people to visit Head Quarters for the purpose of making personal application for trade permits.”

    General Order Number 11 (17 December 1862)

    After Abraham Lincoln was informed of this order he drafted a note to his General-in-Chief of the Army Halleck instructing him to rescind it.

    Halleck wrote to Grant:

    “It may be proper to give you some explanation of the revocation of your order expelling all Jews from your Dept. The President has no objection to your expelling traders & Jew peddlers, which I suppose was the object of your order, but as it in terms prescribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.”


    • Kevin Levin Oct 18, 2012 @ 6:29

      Perhaps you can tell us what this has to do with the post.

  • Dudley Bokoski Oct 16, 2012 @ 14:41

    I’ve been interested in the Civil War for a long time and outside of this blog have never heard of H. K. Edgerton. Which raises the question, why keep bringing him up? Does it advance the discussion of how the Civil War is remembered in the South to seek out stories of individuals few people who live here have even heard of?

    I hope this comes across as a comment instead of negativity, but isn’t the historical amnesia above the Mason-Dixon line regarding the Civil War at least as interesting as Lynerd Skynerd, the Dukes of Hazzard, and H. K. Edgerton?

    • Kevin Levin Oct 16, 2012 @ 14:46

      I appreciate the comment, but I blog about things that I find interesting. I’ve been following H.K. for quite some time and will continue to do so.

  • Chuck Oct 15, 2012 @ 9:42

    The fact that his audience is diminishing is encouraging.

  • JMRudy Oct 15, 2012 @ 9:36

    “The official party line…”
    That phrasing always amuses me. It always immediately brings two things to mind. First, the question, “set by whom?” and the second, the fact that it is nigh impossible to get any sort of real, wholly lock-step agreement among us academics. All you have to do is look at any academic conference across the country. We’re a questioning bunch.

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