Former NAACP president visits Boro to promote Southern heritage
H. K. Edgerton keynote speaker for confederate group banquet
By HOLLI DEAL BRAGG
In a passionate speech defending Southern heritage and the right to wave the Confederate battle flag, North Carolina man H. K. Edgerton roused patriotic emotions among those who attended the Lee/Jackson Banquet hosted Monday by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Ogeechee Rifles Camp 941.
Ordinarily, any speaker at such an event would stir the pride in heritage so evident among the group, but Edgerton is a black man and a former president of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
A Southern black man, he is quick to tell anyone who will listen.
Wearing a Dixie Outfitters jacket earlier in the day, he spoke of his “March Across Dixie” in 2002 from North Carolina to Texas.
Walking across the south, he bore a flag so many black and other Americans have come to view as a symbol of hatred. Edgerton wants to change that.
Carrying with pride the red Confederate flag with the blue St. Andrew’s cross studded with stars, Edgerton made his march in order to promote awareness and defend Southern heritage and history he said belongs to blacks as well as whites.
Edgerton spoke bluntly as he denounced what he said are “lies” taught in today’s schools, in today’s homes. Taking down the Confederate flag, removing memorials to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from government buildings, and otherwise “erasing” Southern heritage is “cultural genocide,” he said.
In a booming voice that did not require the aid of the microphone provided, Edgerton told how a man at a university in Gettysburg made a mockery by “hanging” the Confederate flag.
He spoke of how he was given a criminal trespass citation at the University of Texas because he simply carried his flag on campus and saluted statues of honored Confederate heroes.
He called Savannah Mayor Otis S. Johnson a “scalawag” for ordering the removal of a Robert E. Lee portrait from the city hall, but said many white officials across the South are guilty for removal of Confederate symbols and stating they did so to appease black citizens who might be offended.
“Down come the plaques and blame it on the blacks,” he said.
Edgerton said he did not defend or glorify slavery, but that it was not as Northerners depicted.
Black slaves were like family to white Southerners who owned them. They were buried in the family cemeteries, loved, provided for by their “masters,” he said.
“Black hands worked with white hands to till the soil,” he said. “Trusted black slave family members” protected the home and family while the men were away fighting.
Often, black slaves were sent to accompany young soldiers and asked to “look after young marse (master),” he said.
If the war had lasted just a bit longer, an army of black Southerners would have joined and things could have been different, he told the crowd at the First United Methodist Church Social Hall Monday night.
“If Lee had waited 30 more days, his black help was on the way,” he said. “Oh, I wish he hadn’t signed (surrender papers) … because we were coming!”
‘Folks are not teaching the truth’
Edgerton protested the censure that does not allow students to wear Dixie Outfitters or other clothing depicting the St. Andrew’s cross to school.
He passed out copies of a picture of a Kentucky girl who worked on her prom dress for four years, then was not allowed into the school because it was fashioned after a rebel flag.
That was wrong, he said.
“All that baby girl wanted to do was honor her ancestors,” he said. Speaking of how so many parents have accepted the ban on such clothing, he said “I love those babies who say ‘no, no, no mama, I’m going to school with my (Confederate) tee shirt on!’”
The flag does not symbolize hate nor slavery. It is, as he said former President Jimmy Carter once said, “a legitimate American icon.”
The real Southern history is not being taught, he complained.
“Folks around here are not teaching the truth,” he said. “ … and I came here tonight to teach the truth. I wish you had dragged all these black folks (in Statesboro) down here tonight.”
Only two other black guests attended the banquet.
Edgerton promoted friendship and love between the races, and said if the truth is told, relationships between slaves and slave owners was more like a family bond than anything.
“You can’t explain that to the Yankees,” he said. “They don’t understand. Only love can explain such a bond. We (blacks) are Southerners too. You can’t separate black folks and white folks in the South., We’re family.”
Yankees poisoned the minds of the freed blacks, he said, bribing them and paying them to hate and despise whites.
White Southerners cared for their slaves and when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, “they didn’t send you off in the woods and say ‘you’re free’ – they took care of you,” he said.
Touching on a multitude of subjects, all connected to Southern heritage and pride he said belongs to black Southerners as well as white, Edgerton questioned the term “African-Americans.”
Africans, not white Southerners, set the ball rolling for the slave trade that brought his great, great grandmother Hattie to North Carolina, he said. “The Africans didn’t want us then and they don’t want us now.”
He also denounced some leaders of the NAACP. “I believed being president of the NAACP, that it was for all God’s children, black, white, red or yellow,” he said. “I was a little disillusioned at that.”
The Rev. Jessie Jackson is wrong in his ideas too, Edgerton said. “Somebody call that scalawag Jessie Jackson and tell him I’m over here at the real table of brotherhood,” he screamed, working up a sweat as he defended his right to be proud of his Southern roots.
“When (Union Gen. William T.) Sherman marched to the sea, he burned black homes as well as white,” he said. “He raped black women as well as white … stole food that would keep a black child from starving as well as a white child.”
Edgerton spoke of how his mother, who was buried just last Saturday, was given a funeral “with full Confederate honors” and laughed as he imagined her “giving a full report to Marse Lee.”
In closing his stirring speech, Edgerton recited a poem as he carried a vibrantly colored Confederate flag among the tables where guests were seated.
“I am history .. I am heritage, not hate … look away, Dixie Land … I am your flag.”
Afterwards, he gave away flags he had carried on his march to Texas and on other quests to promote Southern heritage.