Group hopes vendor won’t come to festival

Floyd Press Staff

A vendor’s sale of a book on slavery is at least raising discussion on the matter, says Floyd resident Rob Neukirch. Neukirch and others say they are still planning “some form of formal protest” at the Arts and Crafts Festival this weekend in Floyd. The festival, expecting over 160 vendors, is set for Saturday and Sunday at the Floyd County High School.

The controversy, which has spread to news and blog sites and sparked reader interaction, involves author Gary Walker, a vendor at the festival. Walker writes books on the War Between the States, but Neukirch told the Press the only book Walker was selling last year at the Floyd festival was “The Truth About Slavery.” Neukirch said, “My objection is to his presentation of slavery. The book’s title is ‘The Truth About Slavery’. If you’re going to make that the title of your book, you’re opening yourself for all kinds of things. First of all he (Walker) is not an historian….That book is his book about slavery.”

Neukirch told the Press last week his objection to Walker being at the festival is not about Walker’s “right to say,” but rather about the forum. “…the festival is not the place to expound political views.”

Members of the Floyd County Woman’s Club, which sponsors the event, said they do not endorse Walker’s work, or the work of any other vendor who participates and that Walker meets festival guidelines for a vendor.

Walker, who lives in Roanoke, said last week the protestors are “not only trying to stop the freedom of ideals, they’re trying to stop me from making a living.”

Floyd resident Shannon Green, who also objects to the book, said she has read “The Truth About Slavery,” and “the book is terribly inappropriate to sell on school property. I strongly urge all members of the Woman’s Club, the School Board, and any other concerned citizens to read the book so they can decide for themselves if it is something they can endorse, before it returns next year.” Green said she is donating her copy to the Floyd library for one year, “if they’ll have it.” And added, “If Mr. Walker must come to the fair, he should leave the book at home.”

Chris Prokosch said he is hoping Walker will not come to the festival this weekend. “I find it hard to believe that anyone could read this book without realizing that Mr. Walker thinks slavery was a pretty good thing that was unfairly destroyed by a small vocal minority of rabid Quakers and jealous Northerners,” he added. “The book does not deserve retail space on school property. It’s not a free speech issue. Mr. Walker can try to sell the book anywhere people will let him. It’s a matter of community standards. Most of the world has outgrown Mr. Walker’s views-and I think most of Floyd County has too.”

Prokosch said he hopes Walker “voluntarily withdraws from the fair, as he promised. Barring that, I hope he is not invited back next year.”

Neukirch said Walker’s challenge for anyone to find anything wrong with the book has been met. “In one section of his book, this author said he could not find any slave diaries. A simple Google search turns up three.”

The Woman’s Club does “a lot of good work,” Neukirch commented. “Ninety-nine percent of what is at the festival is good. The one percent that is Mr. Walker standing there needs to be addressed.”

Neukirch said he purchased a copy of “The Truth About Slavery” at and read it. “It would behoove the Woman’s Club to read that book from cover to cover…and to know exactly what he’s selling.”

Neukirch added that he doesn’t think anyone “would lose by his absence. I think they do lose by his presence. Any person of color who walks in and sees his booth is absolutely affronted.”

Neukirch said, “I feel like the dialogue that has happened…is a positive step…the fact that people are talking and listening and thinking.”

Walker told the Press Monday he is still planning to come. He said he will be selling five of his books, including “The Truth About Slavery.”

“I am hoping it will be a peaceful day, a nice day,” Walker added. “The purpose of the show is to have fun.…It’s not about politics.” Walker said he had been doing shows for 22 years and “this is the first time I’ve had anything like this occur. It’s a unique experience. I hope everyone comes out and has a good time.”

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