Being a full-time husband and father of three wonderful little Rebels, I have little time for such squabbles, but this one bears a strong need for attention. Before I go into this issue at length let me explain a few things about myself.
MY name is Robert Harrison, and I am a professional historian and Research Librarian at SC State University, one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges in the country. Secondly, I am the descendant of TWO Virginia slave families so I am more than knowledgeable about the plight of slaves, NORTHERN as well as Southern.
Firstly your claim that NO ONE is willing to show understanding towards the "feelings" blacks have towards the Battle Flag, is unfounded and completely false. Many Southerners of all walks of life have been VERY vocal about the fact that slavery was dark event in the history of our country. However, the "official facts" we are spoon fed through our so-called "official texts" and the media do not even begin to cover the WHOLE TRUTH on the institution of American Slavery.
There is VERY little told of black slave owners, and almost NOTHING regarding Northern slaveholders and their refusal to allow Thomas Jefferson to write into the declaration the freeing of the slaves. It was NORTHERN slaveholders that blocked this inclusion. I might also include that while there were SEVERAL black slave owners, most of them were WOMEN. I am sure you have heard of the phrase "putting your ass back on the block." Well, where that comes from is the female slave owners. Quite often, either through loyal service or through payment they would earn their freedom and begin buy the freedom of their family members. These women, by law at the time, owned their husbands. If they caught their husbands cheating with another slave they "put his ass back on the sale block." Personally I am very grateful for the courts today.
Granted modern hate groups such as the KKK and Aryan Nations have done great damage to dishonor and mislead others on the REAL meanings of these proud symbols. However, no one understands that plight more than we do. MANY Southerners, black and white, from such organizations as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the League of the South, and the Southern Party, of which I am a member and staff writer have gone toe-to-toe with these same hate groups, the media which you are a part of is fearful of portraying the truth to the people of the South and the rest of the country. A fine example of this is the fact that I and several other fine Southerners went to a Klan rally to protest the Klan and their misuse of our symbols and heritage.
Folks like the Jerry Baxley drove HOURS OVERNIGHT to be there to join me in this fight. When we got there, the NAACP crowd and the Klan were yelling at each other like children til they saw me, in full uniform. IT was the NAACP, not the Klan that showed violence towards our presence. There is another example in Florida where SCV members stood toe-to-toe with the Klan in pouring down rain on this very issue. I politefully suggest that before you make such outrageous claims to first research it first.
As for how blacks feel about the physical presence of the flag and other symbols of CSA heritage, you are gravely mistaken. It is true that many blacks, who have been heavily influenced by the propaganda and money-focussed agenda of the NAACP have been taught to believe that everyone flying a battle flag is the enemy and that White Southerners who choose to show pride in their heritage are evil hate-mongers. However, a vastly growing number blacks are beginning to look for themselves and sit down at the table of brotherhood with the white sisters and brothers and learning to understand that not only why these fine white folks love the CSA, but the FACT that the beloved Battle Flag also represents a long hidden and misused part of their own history; that of the Black Confederate.
Oddly enough MANY blacks already know of and EMBRACE this part of their history and vocally fight for it with unmitigated pride. There is Silas Chandler, who went to war with his childhood friend Andrew Chandler who showed great bravery and loyalty by helping save Andrew’s leg from amputation. Silas’s living descendant Bobbie Chandler, is a close personal friend of Major Michael Kelley, and is publicly HONORED by his ancestor’s service to the CSA. There is Nelson Winbush, whose ancestor Private Louis Nelson rode with General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose name I am sure you recognize, from beginning to end of the war.
Forrest by the way, freed ALL of his slaves BEFORE the war. US commanders such as Grant and Sherman didn’t free their slaves until passage of the 13th amendment to our constitution 6 months AFTER the war ended.
Even then these so-called "newly freed men" weren’t recognized as full citizens til passage of the 14th amendment, which was passed 3 YEARS AFTER the war ended. SC State senator Robert Ford recently spoke on behalf of the flag saying it was not the flag that is the problem, but the black hearts of those who use it for bad purposes. The Reverend Charles Greene, Former Roanoke, VA chapter president of the NAACP who is now an associate member of the VA SCV division.
Speaking as an African American historian and descendant of the slaves, and as my mother tells me, descendant of Black Confederates, this whole focus on slavery, reparations and white guilt is wrong and highly insulting. People of honor, white, black or whatever, do not judge anyone by the history of their families but by the content of their character. If the black community is to grow it must do three things.
Firstly it MUST find REAL men and women to be leaders and not a bunch of money and glory seeking perverts and adulterers. Secondly it must lose the co-dependency where the Federal government and the Democratic Party in particular are concerned. We as a people need to realize that the reason those slaves and "free" blacks survived as well as they did was because they were family centered, SELF- dependent people who worked and earned everything they had and didn’t bother waiting around for the so-called Negro loving unionists to bring them "Freedom." Third and finally, if blacks are so gung-ho about remembering their history then this MUST include that of the Black CONFEDERATE. A growing number of blacks are realizing this and are beginning to embrace this proud ancestry and to open their minds and hearts to the fact that the Battle Flag does NOT necessarily equal Slavery, and racism. If that were the case then the Christian cross used for cross burnings, and Old Glory itself would have to be destroyed first.
It was the US flag that slaves saw when they were shipped to America and NOT the Battle Flag. It was Northern money that financed the slave trade, with the FULL BLESSING of the Federal government that sold the slaves in America in the first place. Having written a thesis on the Ku Klux Klan, with information gathered from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, the KKK constitution clearly states that it is the US FLAG and Christian flag; NOT the Battle flag that is to be present at any and ALL Klan functions. The point here is if this country disbands the use of any and ALL symbols that are even remotely tied to slavery, we would have no symbols whatsoever. Slavery and racism were equally present in the North as well as the South; perhaps more so in the North since most Southerners were too poor to buy basic food stuffs and most of the money, including Southern money was stuffed away into Northern banks and business at the outset of war…How convenient!
Many ethnicities suffered greatly at the hands of this "Freedom Loving" culture and government we have. The Native Americans, of which I have Cherokee ancestry for instance got the shaft big time. May I call your attention to all of those dams that the Tennessee Valley Authority built. Did you know and realize that they are built on top of the burial ground of the Cherokee people? I live not far from the Trail Of Tears where who families were dying of starvation and other horrible atrocities. How about the Irish who were greeted with this same discrimination and signs reading "Irish and Dogs not welcome" or "Irish need not apply." It is time to stop the guilt trips and learn form our past instead of taking bits and pieces of it and using it to get money or to sell newspapers. BY the way most blacks really don’t bother worrying about the flag since we as a people have much more pressing issues to deal with that plague our families like locusts; things like teen pregnancy, AIDS, drug abuse, domestic violence and deadbeat fathers.
As far as "official" state symbols and flags go, why can you not understand that the people of MS including a LARGE number of blacks voted to keep the MS state flag as it is. Why can YOU not allow the will of the people to put the issue to rest? Why do you think the NAACP fought so hard to keep the issue form coming to a referendum vote in SC and GA? Quite simply the people of SC and GA would have done the same thing as the people of MS. They would have voted to keep the flags as is, and it would have been a multicultural gathering of the citizens to keep it there as well. The point HERE is even the will of the people is being belittled because a handful of power mongers aren’t being allowed to push their agenda of cultural genocide further down the throats of the Southern people.
Let me say now that your concern is one that obviously comes form your heart out of genuine concern for the feelings of others. However, pushing aside the bad parts of history doesn’t make it go away. History is still history good and bad whether folks like it or not. When blacks embrace their WHOLE history and sit down to discussion with the white brothers and sisters, then everyone will be a lot better off!
Robert Harrison, Research Librarian-SC State University 2nd Sergeant, 37th
Texas Cavalry, Company B, CSA Southern Party Staff Writer