By ABBY SLUTSKY
Evening Sun Reporter

H.K. Edgerton is a Confederate. He proudly carries the Confederate flag.

And, he is a black man.

Edgerton, the descendant of slaves, lives in Ashville, N.C., and is proud of his heritage.

And in Gettysburg, he joined others in a protest Thursday night against an art exhibit at Gettysburg College that will feature a Confederate battle flag hanging from a noose.

His ancestors "earned a place of dignity and honor under this flag," Edgerton said.

While groups of Gettysburg College students walked by and Gettysburg security, police and a bomb squad watched, about 30 people held a candlelight vigil outside the Schmucker Art Gallery, where the exhibit will open today.

After some opening comments and a recitation of "The Lord’s Prayer," Edgerton recited a poem called "I Am Their Flag."

"In 1861, when they perceived their rights to be threatened, when those who would alter the nature of the government of their fathers were placed in charge, when threatened with change they could not accept, the mighty men of valor began to gather. A band of brothers, native to the Southern soil, they pledged themselves to a cause: The cause of defending family, fireside, and faith. Between the desolation of war and their homes they interposed their bodies and they chose me for their symbol."

"I Am Their Flag."

Without hesitation and from memory, Edgerton recited the poem’s 11 stanzas to the silent group.

When he was finished, Edgerton started reading from a list of more than 3,000 names of Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.

A bell was rung after each name, and the group took turns calling out the names.

Bill Fishburn, also of Ashville, is a friend of Edgerton’s.

"(Edgerton) knows what he believes," Fishburn said. "H. K.’s got courage of his convictions."

Henry Kidd, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he thought it was "absolutely wonderful" to see Edgerton holding the Confederate flag.

But Gettysburg College freshman Jon Goldman didn’t agree with Kidd.

"So many people died to end slavery, it’s kind of desecrating to all the people who died," Goldman said. "I think the Confederate flag has only one place to fly, in the history building."

Jessica Brach, a junior at the college, said she was surprised to see a black man holding a Confederate flag.

"But everyone is entitled to their beliefs," she said.

Brach also said she plans on seeing the exhibit.

Kirk Lyons, also of Ashville, said he is "the lawyer for the Confederate community."

A misconception that a lot of people have, he said, is to think that black people were not Confederates.

"In my opinion, there’s 3.5 million who loyally supported the Confederacy," Lyons said. "(Black soldiers) did what they were told, they didn’t complain."

Lyons said the descendants of slaves have a right to be proud of their Confederate heritage.

After all, he said, "if the blacks of the South wanted to shut down the Confederacy, they could have."

And, he said many narratives have been found that show that slaves were protective of their masters and plantations.

"Over all, they were satisfied by their lot," Lyons said.

But John Sims, the Florida artist whose exhibit has been called "anti-Southern," has said he planned to "lynch" the Confederate flag as a "response as an African-American man responding to the Confederate flag in an art context."

© Copyright 2004 The Evening Sun

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