"In defense of his Confederate pride"
I read with great interest the article published on October 7, entitled "In defense of his Confederate pride" about Mr. Nelson Winbush of Kissimmee, a very active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization who also happens to be black. As a fellow member of the SCV, I wish to express to you my most sincere appreciation for giving Mr. Winbush the opportunity to present his interesting story, and for presenting it in a mostly objective manner. I did, however, take exception to a few statements that were made in the article which I would like to mention.
First off, let me say that I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to a family who has been in Berks County, Pennsylvania since at least 1725. I moved with my family to Florida in 1951 when I was 3 years old, and have been raised and schooled in the South. I have ancestors who fought as members of the local militia against the British during our War For Independence, and my great-grandfather was himself a soldier in the Union Army from 1862 to 1863, serving honorably with the 167th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, and I am very proud of the service of my ancestors. I, myself, served for 28 years in the U.S. Army from 1964 until 1992, and have always been intensely loyal to my country and have taken the oath more than once to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
However, I also have ancestors who served in the 24th, 25th, and 26th South Carolina Infantry Regiments from 1861 onward. Two of these ancestors died fighting in defense of their homes and country in 1864, while one ancestor returned home to Charleston following the War to try to assist in the rebuilding of his home and his beloved Southland.
I became a member of the SCV in 1998 after spending many years studying the history of America during the years prior to, during, and after the War Between The States. As a child in public school, I had been "spoon-fed" the customary version of American history that said the South had illegally and traitorously seceded from the United States in order to be able to keep its slaves, and had attacked the Union in April of 1861 at Fort Sumter, precipitating the Civil War. I was also told that basically the South was the "bad guys" since they fought for slavery, whereas the North was the "good guys" since they fought to free the slaves. My own years of studying the true facts of American history during that period convinced me that what I had been taught in public school was both grossly oversimplified, as well as being a downright distortion of historical facts.
Historically, the South had every right to secede from what was originally intended to be a voluntary union of independent and sovereign States, and that it did so primarily because of disagreement over the role of the Federal government vis-a-vis the business involving the States and their citizens. Certainly, the institution of slavery was one of many factors in disagreement, but in the 1850s, even some of the Northern States still had slavery as a legal, albeit insignificant, institution. For example, the State of New Jersey still had slaves listed in the 1860 national census.
The statement was made that "They (white members of the SCV) subscribe to a sort of religion about the war, a different version than mainstream America." "Mainstream America" knows very little about American history, and cares very little about educating themselves in it. Like me, "Mainstream America" was taught to believe the same version of "doctored" history as rewritten by the winners of the War. Let me remind you that not that long ago, "Mainstream America" also believed in white supremacy and black inferiority. Did that make "Mainstream America" right? As essentially a lifelong Floridian, I know that a majority of native Southerners still hold the sacrifices of their Confederate ancestors in very high regard, even though they may not be members of a hereditary organization such as the SCV. As a matter of fact, at this point in time, the membership of the SCV nationally is higher than at any time since Confederate veterans were still living, which contradicts another statement made in the article:
"Confederate flags are coming down, especially from the tops of Southern statehouses, including Florida’s in 2001. The agrarian Bible Belt has become the Sun Belt, full of northerners with few deep roots in the area. Identification with the South as a region has declined since the World War II era…"
The reason Confederate flags have come down around the South is not because Southerners no longer care about our history and heritage, but rather because of the rampant intolerance of political correctness, and demagoguery by race-baiters and other leftwingers who believe all opinions contrary to their own need to be viciously disposed of a la Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, and Adolf Hitler. At this point in time, we have citizens who have lost their jobs, been expelled from school, and been disciplined simply for displaying a Confederate flag in public. While this certainly smacks of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, it is a fact of life in America now, and that fact has intimidated some otherwise proud Southerners from openly displaying their pride.
It should be noted that prior to the early 1990s, little attention was paid to the Confederate flag by "Mainstream America" because it was considered to be a very well-known symbol of the South. It was a symbol associated with Southern pride and rebellion against tyrannical government. I can tell you that it was widely displayed throughout the South prior to 1990, and was also displayed by American soldiers in Viet Nam, as well as by anti-Communist demonstrators in East Germany, Hungary, and other former Eastern Bloc countries.
What changed after 1990? In 1991, the NAACP, which had long been a civil rights organization espousing equality, tolerance, and appreciation of the heritage of others, passed a national resolution that shows how it has become as intolerant and discriminatory as its former enemies had been. The wording of that national resolution is as follows:
"VII. INTERNAL AFFAIRS
1. Resolution abhorring the Confederate Battle Flag on State Flags Approved WHEREAS, the tyrannical evil symbolized in the Confederate Battle Flag is an abhorrence to all Americans and decent people of this country, and indeed the world and is an odious blight upon the universe; and, WHEREAS, African-Americans, had no voice, no consultation, no concurrence, no commonality, not in fact nor in philosophy, in the vile conception of the Confederate Battle Flag or State Flags containing the ugly symbol of idiotic white supremacy, racism and denigration; and, WHEREAS, we adamantly reject the notion that African-Americans should accept this flag for any stretch of the imagination or approve its presence on State Flags; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the national office of the NAACP and all units commit their legal resources to the removal of the Confederate Flag from all public properties."
Obviously, this is nothing more than a lot of hyperbole that is detached from reality, but, nonetheless, the NAACP passed this resolution in order to set up the Confederate flag as a "strawman" to use in order to try to refill its depleted coffers, increase its membership, and try to regain some sort of relevance that had dwindled significantly following the so-called "Civil Rights Era." This resolution serves no purpose whatsoever in bettering the lives of black Americans, and does nothing to address the real problems that are holding the black community back, such as rampant black-on-black crime, drug use, illegitimate teenage pregnancies, dysfunctional families, lack of education, lack of jobs, etc. The lack or presence of the Confederate flag has nothing to do with any of these problems that really affect black Americans.
Lastly, your article states that "…historians, for the most part, agree that the Civil War was about slavery, undermining the standard neo-Confederate argument." This is an absolute falsehood on your part, and is simply a repetition of the leftwing mantra that has come to pass for historical fact. In fact, what historians will agree upon is the fact that the institution of slavery PLAYED A PART in precipitating the War Between The States. Other precipitating factors which were by no means minor were the problems of high tariffs which disproportionately affected the Southern States, a lack of Congressional representation due to a great disparity between the Northern populations and the Southern populations, the increase in unconstitutional Federal intrusion into the operation of the sovereign States (States Rights), etc.
As an example, the South traded extensively with Great Britain in cotton, and in order to protect the financial interests of Northern industries, the Federal Congress passed laws which inflicted unreasonable tariffs against these Southern exports. Congress was able to pass such legislation since initially the South was given credit for only its white population when it came to determining the number of its representatives in Congress, while much of the Southern populace was comprised of either free blacks or African slaves. As a result, the South contributed 75%-80% of the money in the Federal Treasury while receiving in return approximately 15% of the benefit from its contribution. Considering only this one element, how was it any longer in the best interests of the South to remain in the Federal Union? The answer is, it wasn’t!
If "Mainstream America" was aware of some of these historical facts, the true history of the South would be known by the average American, and the South and the Confederacy would be better understood and better appreciated. The Confederacy was not about slavery and nothing else! Educated Americans would know that slavery was not limited to Africans, and that it had been, unfortunately, a legal institution in most of the world for centuries, and was considered legal in one form or another through most of the United States until passage of the XIII Amendment in 1865 following the War Between The States. They would know that throughout the entire War, the states of Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri remained in the Union, even though they were considered to be "Slave States." They would know that even the wife of Union General Ulysses S. Grant, among other Northerners, continued to own slaves until she was forced to emancipate them in 1866.
Fortunately, Mr. Winbush has taken the time to be educated on the true history of the War Between The States, both by his own research, but more importantly, by his grandfather who actually participated in the War, and knew first-hand what the War was all about. If both Union and Confederate veterans were still alive today, they would surely vehemently contradict the politically-correct version of history taught by our public schools, and promulgated by leftwing organizations, but, since that is not the case, it is left up to the members of the SCV and other Southern Heritage organizations to defend the honor of our Confederate ancestors, and to tell the truth about their sacrifices.
LTC D. A. Anthony (Ret.)