This weekend, Americans will finally get to see what many of us have been waiting to explore: the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’ll be at a conference at Illinois State University discussing the Supreme Court decision ex parte Milligan (1866), so I’ll have to wait my turn to step into this museum (I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for the first time in 1966, some fifty years ago, just two years after it opened).
To me, the new museum is for all of us, much as other Smithsonian museums are for all of us (the National Museum of the American Indian comes to mind) as well as other museums on the National Mall (as in the Holocaust Museum). I can’t wait to see what stories the new museum will tell and how they will be told.
That museum looks forward in part by looking backward, suggesting the journey ahead in part by reviewing where one’s been. Elsewhere, however, maybe a hundred miles to the south, people who look backward all the time will also be gathering that weekend. That’s right … the Virginia Flaggers will celebrate their fifth anniversary of existence and three years since the Comedy at Chester was first unveiled. I remember that day very well, and it always brings a smile to my face.
Confederate heritage advocates always claim to be rather interested in history, although it appears their ability to ensure historical accuracy (as opposed to heritage correctness) is not always sound. Take this example:
This little item appeared on the Facebook page of our good friends the Virginia Flaggers. Of especial note is the quote attributed to William Henry Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.
I found the quote provocative, and so I decided to do a little research. Guess what I found?
First, apparently Confederate heritage advocates are rather fond of this quote, as a look at Google suggests. But they aren’t always very good at citing the source. Fortunately, it’s also easy to find the quote in question. You will come across it in a book written by one George Edmonds, Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, published in 1904 in Memphis, Tennessee. You’ll find it on page 23:
This is a valuable clue. The Piatt in question is one Donn Piatt, a big fan of George H. Thomas and someone who had no problem writing vivid if not always accurate accounts of his interaction with famous folks. Perhaps that explains why a recent biography is subtitled “Gadfly of the Gilded Age.”
Piatt recalled that he first met Seward while Seward was still a senator from New York. He later recounted on pages 135-38 the exchange he had with the former governor:
Oh, my. That’s not what Confederate heritage advocates claimed Seward had said. Yes, southerners used the Constitution “as a shield” … “to cover their wicked designs” to expand slavery.
I didn’t see that when the Virginia Flaggers posted the quote. I wonder why. Nor did I see them remind us that Seward said that the Constitution was “a sacred ark of covenant” to the North. Somehow that information didn’t make its way onto the Virginia Flaggers’ post, either.
Someone’s been lying for 112 years. But then distortions of the record have always been essential to Confederate heritage correctness. It’s just that in this case we can see that the practice has a long history. It’s a tradition of dishonesty.
We hear all the time from Virginia Whine Country about “political correctness” and distortions of the past, but somehow not when it comes to the distortions (and fabrications) of the historical record for which certain Confederate heritage advocates are so well known. That’s because the “political correctness” that I have styled “heritage correctness” serves their own self-serving politicized view of the American past. I guess that also runs in the blood of certain haughty Virginians (I’ve always thought the blood’s been diluted over time). Some people’s blood runs hot. Some people’s blood runs cold. In this case, it’s simply run out.
And if you’re waiting for a retraction or an admission of error from the Flaggers, be prepared to wait a long time. Given their interest in monitoring this blog (hi Connie!), we’ll see whether the Flaggers clean up their feed.
Remember, folks, it’s heritage, not history. And if it takes lying to preserve the heritage and restore the (lost) honor, so be it.
Recently The Civil War Monitor asked several historians (including yours truly) their opinions about Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The answers appear in the current issue, but space restraints in the paper edition offered an opportunity for the journal to share on its website how people responded to that traditional counterfactual query, “What if Stonewall Jackson had been at Gettysburg?”
It’s a question that is as problematic as it is popular. I’ve tired of it, largely because I’ve learned that people who don’t know nearly as much about the Civil War as they claim to know prefer to talk about what could have happened (where research and knowledge gives way to fantasy and imagination) than to discuss what really did happen and why (thus Civil War discussion groups thrive on such debates). Besides, there are other what-ifs I find more interesting.
Nevertheless, these discussions are just the thing for people who like that sort of thing, so enjoy.
You may find this video featuring a visit to a Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar, California, to be of interest.
I find it of interest in part because the NPS ranger featured in the video, Patricia Biggs, was my undergraduate student at ASU (as well as my teaching assistant and as a grad student who took classes from me).
One of the most interesting aspects of writing about Confederate heritage advocates, especially the Virginia Flaggers, is highlighting the associations of various Flaggers with white supremacists, white nationalists, and the like. Mind you, usually these associations are brought to our attention by the Flaggers themselves in social media or elsewhere. Thus it was the Flaggers themselves who hailed Matthew Heimbach as a fellow Flagger and embraced him in one of their marches (even Connie Chastain used one image in preparing a dust cover of yet another never-to-be-published book, as you can see here):
Even Chastain admits Heimbach’s a Flagger. Otherwise she’d never have prepared this design.
But Heimbach isn’t the only white supremacist/white nationalist embraced by Susan Hathaway. Nor does she protest when her writings turn up in anti-Semitic newsletters.
To highlight these association brings all sorts of protests from Flagger defenders and apologists, who have become very inventive if not very persuasive in their responses/excuses.
However, we did not take the pictures. We did not march alongside these people. We did not thank them on social media. We did not allow Flagger writings to appear in bigoted or racist literature.
All of our evidence has been manufactured by the Flaggers themselves as they seek to publicize what they do … and no one is more willing to do that than Susan Frise Hathaway.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that more Flagger-provided evidence has surfaced linking Susan Hathaway to yet another white supremacist, one with a fondness for the Ku Klux Klan … Steven Monk.
Here are some images Mr. Monk shared on a social media group page:
Sometimes Mr. Monk wears gray. Sometimes he wears black:
Over at Restoring the Honor there’s a rather full set of imagesillustrating Mr. Monk’s beliefs. Among the images, we come across the following …
Oh, yes … don’t forget Billy Bearden. He’s there, too.
So we see Susan Hathaway, celebrating the Confederacy atop Stone Mountain with a fellow who seems rather fond of white supremacy, to the point that he doesn’t mind using a Klan hood as his profile picture (sortta destroys the rationale for the hood, right?).
Based upon my own experiences, and watching, talking, and reading of your own activities – you are cut from the same cloth as such Flagger legends as Lijah Coleman, Grayson Jennings, Clint Lacy, HK, Ken Waters, Steven Monk, Rodney Waller and Patricia Godwin.
You’ll find other Flaggers and Confederate heritage celebrities also like Mr. Monk.
But Susan Frise Hathaway likes him a lot.
So much for the notion that this was merely an accident or the ill-timed click of a camera shutter.
The evidence linking the Virginia Flaggers to white supremacists is rather large enough as it is … but it keeps on growing. So please don’t tell me it’s heritage, not hate, because it’s all too clearly a heritage of hate, and Susan Hathaway’s associations remind us of that every day.
One of the more striking aspects of the current Confederate heritage correctness movement, at least in the eyes of the national media, is the presence of African Americans in the ranks of such advocates. Sometimes these people receive a great deal of attention, while sometimes they seek it (and look to make a little money off it, as in the case of H. K. Edgerton).
Over the past few years, I have seen an uptick of Black, Hispanic and Asian people embracing White Supremacists and neo-Fascism. There’s no other way to put it really. It is truly that black and white. It might cause folks to scratch their heads over the notion, but a few weeks ago I went to a neo-Confederate rally in Mississippi and got into it with a Black neo-Confederate from Oklahoma who was rubbing elbows with members of the White Supremacist League of the South – and he was one of several at that rally doing so. My group One People’s Project also had to recently deal with a Black/Dominican man posing as a Muslim that infiltrated our small organization to gather information about anti-racists and give that information to a neo-Nazi organization he was affiliated with. So there’s no hyperbole when I say that they are supporting right-wing hatemongers.
Now it’s nothing new, really. I am used to seeing people of color embrace the right and ignoring how much they are being used as a shield against very valid charges of racism. But in 2016, that is a much different animal. We have more persons of color becoming a part of mainstream society, more than we ever had in American history. It makes complete sense that there will be some that will become a part of mainstream conservative society as well, and it isn’t going to always mean that they are selling out or hating on their culture and heritage, although there are still a huge number of those that are more than happy to do so. There is a more defined dividing line between those of color who are truly conservative and those who are simply surrogates for racists.
Karen Cooper’s history would indeed suggest that she was a part of that latter crowd when her strong defenses of the Confederacy and a particularly downright laughable and appalling comment in a video spotlighting those defenses that “slavery was a choice” because slaves could have “chosen to die” instead. Then she speaks out publicly against police brutality and the bigoted attacks on Muslims in this country (she is a former member of the Nation of Islam). She is a Libertarian and at the very least, that means she is more about bringing people together than pulling them apart. So although many might think she might be a little wrongheaded in her approach, ultimately she is not what we see in the rest of that Flagger crowd, the ones who thought they could use her as that aforementioned “shield”. And that is where they come to their current conflict.
The Flaggers are treating Cooper as their pet Negro, and when they saw her effectively talking back to one of them, they wanted to make her heel. Her butting heads with Tripp Lewis, a Virginia Flagger who is a little too supportive of hate politics and the people who push them caused one of them, Gary Adams, to want to reign her in after she clashed with Lewis for his anti-Muslim shots at her, as opposed to him. To be clear about it, many in that group are defending Cooper, but Adams wanted her to delete the entire exchange and call him and other Flagger leaders about the situation. If Cooper has ever felt she needed to inch away from this group, she more than likely went a few more inches away with this incident.
As well she should.
I don’t think Karen Cooper is a bad person. I definitely don’t think she’s a stupid person. I think that she has bad politics, or at the very least a bad approach to them. But I truly hope that this particular episode causes her to realize that the people around her might not be her friends and she is on a very wrong road. You can be sure the rest of us do.
We await the usual cries of outrage from Confederate heritage advocates. We also wonder whether Karen Cooper will respond … or whether her white handlers friends allow to her respond.
Over at Virginia Whine Country we’ve been hearing more complaining about political correctness and the bankruptcy of education … but nothing aboutthe news that in Texas, “Five million public school students … will begin using new social studies textbooks this fall based on state academic standards that barely address racial segregation. The state’s guidelines for teaching American history also do not mention the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws.”
That’s heritage correctness for you. Let’s just take out white supremacy (and insist that to include it is “political correctness” or a sign that one’s “obsessed” with the subject). None of that has any place in a historical narrative shaped by the (self-)righteous demands of heritage correctness.
And when it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” — written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education.
Slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War,” said Pat Hardy, a Republican board member, when the board adopted the standards in 2010. “There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.”
Sure. Like the state right reflected in personal liberty laws that white southerners wanted to strike down in their effort to create a federal bureaucracy to recapture escaped slaves, even if that mean setting aside altogether the rights of the accused or a trial by jury?
Maybe Stonewall taught his slaves that, too.
It’s not as if Confederate heritage advocates are not aware of what happens in Texas when it comes to the removal of Confederate statues at college campuses. Oh, that’s horrible. But when it comes to other distortions of history that favor their version of historical correctness?
Face it: Confederate heritage correctness is nothing more than political correctness as embraced by white supremacists, Confederate apologists, and the wonderfully ignorant. And its advocates are proud of it.
But it’s the self-inflicted wounds that are just as likely to leave an enduring mark. There’s still fallout from Tripp Lewis’s attack on Karen Cooper. As detailed on Restoring the Honor, while many advocates of Confederate heritage sided with Cooper and denounced Lewis, others, led by Gary Adams of the Southern Heritage Preservation Group, called on Cooper to silence herself instead of denouncing Lewis.
Over in Virginia Whine Country there’s trouble east of the Shenandoah Valley as well … and it’s not unexpected. After all, it’s been a contentious election year, and the nastiness of the campaign is reflected in the rather coarse contempt people display for each other on social media.
Historian Karen L. Cox has reminded us exactly why the United Daughters of the Confederacy invested in George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) in the first place. Namely, the UDC hoped to train women teachers who would spread the Confederate gospel as the UDC saw it.
In short, one could call it a heritage indoctrination center.