Black Confederate says he is marching for heritage

By Ray Chandler
Thursday, October 25, 2007

OCONEE COUNTY — It’s a sight that elicits a second glance, maybe a third. A black man marching along the S.C. 28 toward Walhalla dressed in Confederate butternut, carrying a Confederate battle flag.

To H.K. Edgerton, however, it’s a march for truth in history as critical as any march for civil rights. Mr. Edgerton’s march Thursday carried him to Oconee County.

When it comes to the role of blacks in the Confederacy, Mr. Edgerton is less than happy about the story.

“This flag has nothing to do with hate,” Mr. Edgerton said of the starred red, white and blue St. Andrew’s Cross battle flag he carried. “It’s the flag of Southern heritage, black and white.”

The 58-year-old former head of the NAACP chapter in Asheville left his city Oct. 20 to recreate the 1,600-mile “March across Dixie” in which he tramped to Austin, Tex., in 2002. He marched specifically to protest the removal of plaques honoring the Confederacy from the Texas statehouse.

The march, however, became a personal odyssey to raise awareness of blacks’ role in Confederate history and to highlight what he called “the wholesale and deliberate destruction of the positive aspects of Southern history by self-serving politicians and the media.”

This time, he will not be marching the whole way, but will make a series marches along his 2002 route.

He marched into Clemson Tuesday. He expects to reach Austin on Dec. 17.

“I wish I could report that after five years all my suffering had been vindicated,” Mr. Edgerton said. “But it hasn’t. Not when you have organizations like NASCAR that have banned our flag.”

Brian France, chief executive officer of that racing organization, banned the flag in 2006 from any official NASCAR use or on any licensed product. Separating NASCAR from the Confederate flag, with its racist associations, he said, was necessary to increase the sport’s popularity among minorities and women.

It is not from blacks that he draws the most fire for his stance, Mr. Edgerton said, but from whites.

“Northern white people,” he said.

Mr. Edgerton is president of Southern Heritage 411, an activist group whose Web site describes it as committed to revealing “the truth of the War for Southern Independence with particular emphasis on the contributions black people made to support the South in its struggle for independence.”

Beverly Jenkins, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Mr. Edgerton’s visit to Oconee County resurrected unpleasant associations.

“You can’t stop people from marching like that, but that just brings back old memories of the (Ku Klux Klan),” she said.

Mr. Edgerton’s next stop is today in Toccoa, Ga.

© 2007 The E.W. Scripps Co.

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