What I Did for Confederate Flag Day

The antihistorical Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of the heritage instead of history cults, designated Saturday, March 3, 2018 as “Confederate Flag Day.” My activities began with a book discussion of Gabor Boritt’s The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows, which is about the Gettysburg Address.

My next activity was to attend the Thaddeus Stevens Society‘s Abolitionists Day activities. Those activities consisted of various reenactors portraying southern abolitionists.

It began with Gettysburg’s mayor, Theodore Streeter, reading his proclamation designating March 3, 2018 as Abolitionists Day.

Next we heard a speech by a reenactor portraying Frederick Douglass, recounting his life story.

That was followed by a reenactor playing the part of Levi Coffin, an abolitionists born in North Carolina who moved to Indiana and then Ohio and was a major “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.

We next heard from a reenactor portraying Cassius Marcellus Clay, the Kentucky-born abolitionist.

Following the first series of sketches, we had a musical interlude of 19th Century songs, including “John Brown’s Body,” including the lyrics:

We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree.
We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree,
As we go marching on!

Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
As we go marching on!

We’ll feed him sour apples ’til he gets the diaree.
We’ll feed him sour apples ’til he gets the diaree.
We’ll feed him sour apples ’til he gets the diaree.
As we go marching on!

Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
As we go marching on!

The second series of sketches began with an imagined conversation between Angelina Grimke and Harriet Jacobs, followed by speeches by those two characters.

Next, we were treated to a sketch involving Elizabeth “Crazy Bet” Van Lew of Richmond, Virginia, and an imagined conversation between her, as postmaster in Richmond in 1870, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, who had been a spy for her in the confederate white house, and Peter Roane, who had worked for Van Lew in Richmond both during the war and afterward in the post office.

This was a fun afternoon and well worth the time.

That evening, Gettysburg Rising, a nonprofit organization dedicated to civic engagement, hosted a confederate flag forum, moderated by Dr. David P. Hadley, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Gettysburg College. This two-hour discussion began with Dr. Hadley providing historical context and then allowing the audience to make comments. There was one individual wearing the obnoxious confederate flag shirt that hypocritically claims others need a history lesson when it’s actually the one wearing it who usually needs the history lesson:

That individual made the ridiculous but popular comment that Robert E. Lee was antislavery. I gave a response quoting Lee and giving the history of his slaveowning as well as quoting the Arlington slaves regarding Lee being “the worst man who ever lived.” We’ve discussed Lee and slavery here before [see here, here, here, here, and here, for instance]. The individual later recounted the anecdote of Lee taking communion next to a black man, claiming it was Lee saying “We are all brothers.” I thought seriously about responding, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to make it a debate about Lee.

For those who are unfamiliar with this anecdote, it comes from a story in the Richmond Times Dispatch of April 16, 1905.

Here’s the article:

When we see the story in its original context we see it was not Lee saying, “We are all brothers.”

If we combine it with Lee’s testimony that he would like to see all black people deported from Virginia, with Lee’s postwar conversation with a Colonel Carter in which he said, “I have always observed that wherever you find the negro, everything is going down around him, and wherever you find the white man, you see everything around him improving,” and if we add Lee’s advice to his son, “You will never prosper with blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury, and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours. I wish them no evil in the world—on the contrary, will do them every good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom they have given their confidence; but our material, social, and political interests are naturally with the whites,” and if we add Lee’s views on blacks participating in society, “the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power,” we can see Lee was basically saying, “ignore this impudent negro usurper.” Lee did not believe in any equality of blacks and whites. As usual, to be a confederate apologist, one has to use a fake form of history. While they aren’t necessarily lying, you can’t believe what they tell you. Most of them don’t know actual history.

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