Valley Springs School blocks H.K. Edgerton appearance

Don’t be surprised if you’re driving on Long Shoals Road next week and see H.K. Edgerton picketing Valley Springs Middle School.

He’ll be easy to recognize. He’ll be the black man wearing the Confederate uniform, carrying the Confederate battle flag. He says he’ll be picketing against political correctness and the lack of free speech inside the windowless government building.

Edgerton’s ire was raised to fever pitch last week when Valley Springs principal Tom Keever rescinded a student-issued invitation to speak to 8th graders studying the Civil War. The appearance was blocked due to Keever’s insistence that Edgerton provide proof of his qualifications to speak on the issue, and certify that his remarks would be consistent with the North Carolina curriculum outline for Civil War studies.

Keever added his impression that Edgerton was “a self-proclaimed expert in Southern culture and history.”

According to both parties, the invitation had been issued by two 8th grade students. At first it was thought that Edgerton would address just one class. Then, as other students learned that he might be coming, the invitation was expanded to include all 8th graders.

Keever explained his position saying, “I don’t know anything about him. He hasn’t called me. We just received letters from a legal organization. We’ve had a student as the intermediary.”

One section of those guidelines requires that “The learner will analyze the roles of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.” Edgerton is an African-American and a former president of the Asheville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Edgerton also is a director of the Southern Legal Resource Center in Black Mountain, an organization dedicated to preserving Southern culture and history despite efforts to stamp it out. Edgerton argues that “blacks and whites, descendents of slaves and slave owners, share a common culture and history.”

His efforts to present his case, he says, “in the face of lies, hostility and hatred,” have caused him to march across the South carrying the Confederate battle flag and wearing the uniform of a Southern soldier.

“I have been greeted with love and affection by blacks and whites alike wherever I have gone,” he says. “I have marched across the Southland of America proudly carrying our flag and I have spoken in schools from Asheville to Austin, Texas. Wherever I have gone, most of the babies (students) I speak to have never heard anything about the South other than the lies of hatred and fear that drive the races apart.”

With regards to Keever’s claim that he had never heard of him, Edgerton said, “If Mr. Keever hasn’t heard of me, then he needs to go type in my name on the Internet, or read the Asheville Tribune or Citizen-Times.

(The Tribune typed in H.K. Edgerton and received 32,700 hits from the Google.com search engine and 77,000 on Yahoo!).

Keever criticized Edgerton’s failure to send him an outline of his talk or a listing of his credentials to speak on the topic. “I asked him to send me this information and he didn’t,” Keever said. “I thought this was a reasonable request from our end. In my letters I said for him to call me. He didn’t. It’s a moot point now,” he added. “The students have moved beyond that period in their studies.”

Edgerton and the SLRC responded by letter to the school, asking for a copy of the curriculum guidelines in question and a listing of all other speakers who have been forced to provide proof of their qualifications to speak. Keever indicated he did not intend to respond to that request since the students are no longer studying the Civil War period.

Tom Keever, principal of Valley Springs Middle School, may be reached at the school office, 828-654-1785. H.K. Edgerton may be reached through the Southern Legal Resource Center, 828-669-5189.

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