Charlotte Confederate History Week
In the Charlotte (NC) Rhinoceros Times, Bill Ward responds to Mecklenburg County Commissioner Norman Mitchell, who said, "I don’t know how you can separate the Confederacy and the Klan." Ward’s response is reproduced below.
In commenting on a resolution declaring the week of May 9 Confederate History Week in Mecklenburg County, Commissioner Norman Mitchell made two statements that I respectfully disagree with.
Mitchell said that he believes the Confederate battle flag stands only for racism and oppression of African Americans. Later, addressing members of Confederate Heritage groups in the audience, Mitchell said, "You cannot continue to hide under the cover of heritage. I don’t know how you can separate the Confederacy and the Klan."
If the gentleman would bother to do some research for himself instead of relying on inaccurate oral history, his comments might resemble something closer to truth.
Within recent months, the History Channel carried two relevant programs: "The History of the American Nazi Party" and "The History of the Ku Klux Klan." The programs showed Klan and Nazis parading in the streets carrying several flags: the Christian flag, the Confederate battle flag, and the United States flag. In scenes of street demonstrations, one Confederate flag was usually seen, as has been the case with either group of these social miscreants for the past 50 years.
The foremost Southern Heritage group in this country, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, deplores this kind of hateful display of our ancestors’ colors. Unfortunately, historic and national flags are in the public domain. We can do little except complain and ask the offenders not to desecrate our flags, which we have often done.
For the first 40 years of its life after its rebirth in 1915, the KKK virtually claimed the US flag as its own. Photos of thousands of Klansmen (and women) marching in Washington, D.C. in the 1920s show them all carrying the Stars and Stripes. No Confederate flags were seen anywhere.
In 1941 at Camp Nordland, New Jersey, a Nazi youth indoctrination camp, the KKK and American Nazi Party held joint rallies just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. An estimated 50,000 attended. The Klan displayed its longtime banner of choice – the US flag – which flew proudly with the Nazi swastika. Yet no one dares question the historical purity of the US flag, which flew over slave ships and an entire nation that condoned slavery long before the Confederate States of America existed.
As to separating the Confederacy and the Klan, that’s easy. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to U. S. Grant’s federal forces on April 9, 1861 at Appomattox. For all practical purposes, the Confederate government collapsed days earlier, when Jefferson Davis and his cabinet left Richmond. Members of the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands, along with various northern Republicans, or Carpetbaggers, began to move into the South. Some came with the good intentions of helping freed slaves. But many were greedy opportunists come to prey on a region devastated by war. These were met with resistance by Klan-like groups formed in the Deep South, operating under different names whose towns were occupied by hostile federal forces, and in many cases, unfriendly Freedmen’s bureau managers. These groups operated as clandestine forces months before the KKK became a reality.
Numerous myths have emerged about the early Klan since Reconstruction, which was originally formed by six Confederate veterans in early 1866 as nothing more than a social club. When you get past the Hollywood history, you can find that the Klan was actually friendly toward blacks loyal to the Democratic Party and willing to work in opposition to the Republicans trying to wrest control of the South. Seldom acknowledged in most "popular history" texts is the existence of the Union (or Loyal) League groups that organized in the South after the Civil War. Much of the violence attributed to the KKK by politically correct history, including black-on-black crimes of the period, were actually committed by factions of the Union League.
The history of the Civil War period is not as simplistic as Commissioner Mitchell would have us believe. He renders a great disservice to all when making baseless, divisive comments about Confederate Heritage and history.
— In NCSouth@yahoogroups.com, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Today marks the beginning of Confederate History Week in Mecklenburg County, NC. Mecklenburg County Commissioners passed a resolution in support of this last week, partly in response to the Charlotte (NC) City Council’s failure to protect the Confederate flag at Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery. See complete details from the Charlotte Rhinoceros Times below.
May 10 is Confederate Memorial Day, an official state holiday in North Carolina according to General Statute 103-4. For more information, see the statute here:
CONFEDERATE HISTORY GETS A THUMBS-UP
By M.E. Pellin – Editor
The revelation of a likely tax increase wasn’t the only thing stirring debate at Tuesday night’s board of commissioners meeting.
The board also approved a controversial proposal to proclaim next week Confederate Heritage Week in Mecklenburg County; expect it didn’t. What the board actually approved was a proclamation for Confederate History Week. There was, as many commissioners pointed out, a world of difference between the names of the two proclamations.
Commissioner Jim Puckett, a Republican, had originally proposed using the heritage moniker, but it was changed when Commissioner Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, suggested using the word history.
Six commissioners, including Wilhelmenia Rembert, a black Democrat, approved the modified resolution. Democrat commissioners Valerie Woodard, Norman Mitchell and Dumont Clarke opposed. Woodard and Mitchell are both black; Clarke is white.
Puckett, who is white, said he proposed the proclamation partly in response to City Manager Pam Syfert’s recent decision to remove a Confederate flag from Elmwood Cemetery. He also said recognizing the Confederacy and its symbols for what they were, and not what certain fringe hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan had turned them into, would provide an opportunity for a better understanding of the reasons behind the Civil War.
Those reasons, Puckett said, were primarily economic, constitutional and moral. Slavery, he said, had little to do with why most Confederate soldiers fought in the war.
"Less than 5 percent of the Southern population owned slaves," Puckett said. "The other 95 percent can only defend their motives and themselves through the actions of their descendants."
Roberts, who is white, said a Confederate week resolution could be used to educate the public about a painful and tragic time in our country’s history. But she said it was the history, both the bad and the good, which should be remembered and used as tool for moving forward.
Puckett said the county regularly uses proclamations to honor other cultures, people and events, some of which encompass both good and bad. The county, for example, recognizes Black History Month, Puckett said, even though that history is "not any more immune to theevils and miscarriages of justice than any other."
"We celebrate what’s best and noble," Puckett said.
Rembert said she realized that some people would probably be surprised that she voted to support the Confederate resolution.
"Irrespective of how I feel about why the war was waged," she said, "a week to reflect on that terrible history might be a good thing, so we never, ever let it happen again."
Rembert said that she recently had the honor of meeting some soldiers that were getting ready to head to Iraq, and none of them made any reference to a policy that had them headed into harms way. She drew a parallel to the Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
"Soldiers are not concerned about the policies and the politics," Rembert said. "They committed to a duty and a service."
Mitchell, by contrast, directly equated the Confederacy with the Ku Klux Klan and the evils it perpetrated. At one point, Mitchell turned to Puckett and said, "So, Commissioner Puckett wants to honor the Klan – I mean the Confederacy."
That prompted several people in the audience who supported the Confederate resolution to respond, "We’re not Klansman." In turn, Commissioners Chairman Parks Helms, a white Democrat who voted in favor of the resolution, sternly told the audience members to keep quiet.
Sons of Confederate Veterans member Mike Tuggle criticized Mitchell for saying that when he saw anybody sporting a Confederate flag , he assumed they were Klan members.
"That’s like saying if you see somebody with a Latino flag, you automatically assume they’re a member of MS-13," Tuggle told Mitchell. "I can’t think of anything more divisive than to demonize the heritage of another people."
Shanna Palmer, a grassroots preservation activist who with her husband, Mark, heads Historic Preservation of Elmwood & Pinewood Cemetery, agreed.
"I ask everyone to use this to help find some common ground, to be tolerant of one another, and to use this resolution and next week to take the time to learn something from this," Palmer said. "If you’re going to find peace and tolerance, you have to find common ground. This is a good place to start."