Silence from SCV Headquarters on the VMFA and the War Memorial Chapel?

Today I was reading a post from Nick Sacco on a recent controversy in St. Louis involving a Confederate monument. Apparently some people are uneasy about the monument and want to discuss whether it should be removed. What intrigued me was that our friend Ben Jones, the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, chimed in on the issue.

As I’ve said before, I find Ben a likeable guy, but I am puzzled by something. Has he written a similar essay concerning the debate over the display of the Confederate flag at Richmond’s War Memorial Chapel? After all, we have been told that the 2010 decision of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to rescind the display of the Confederate flag on the portico of the chapel (a practice that had been going on all of seventeen years, judging by the failure of Confederate heritage groups to offer an image of such a display prior to 1993) sparked the creation of what someone has called “the most powerful and influential southern heritage organization in existence”┬átoday. In 2015 the VMFA ceased leasing the War Memorial Chapel altogether.

It’s reasonable to ask why we’ve seen nothing from Ben Jones or the SCV about this issue. Yes, we were treated to (then) SCV commander-in-chief Michael Givens taking a guest turn as a Flagger …

Givens and Hathaway

… but that’s been it.

Can anyone explain the silence of Ben Jones and the SCV’s national organization concerning this controversy? If I’ve overlooked evidence of a public declaration, would someone provide it? Thanks.

The Virginia Flaggers, the VMFA, and the War Memorial Chapel: Much Ado Over Nothing?

By now you all know about the decision of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts not to renew its lease agreement with a camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the use of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the VMFA.

Here’s what the Virginia Flaggers announced on their Facebook page:

VaFlaggerExcusesVMFA

This account contradicts a claim offered by Billy Bearden in the comments section of this blog that the lease offered the SCV was a last-minute surprise: the above account suggests that both parties had been negotiating for quite some time. Perhaps the Flaggers need to get their stories straight. They’ve had years to do that.

The Flaggers’ own account also testifies to the organization’s inability to affect the stance of the VMFA. The Flaggers themselves claim that they have nothing to do with the position of the VMFA in 2015, because it was what the VMFA wanted to do in 2010; yet the 2015 agreement shows that matters have not improved, suggesting that the past four and a half years of protesting practiced by the Virginia Flaggers have amounted to nothing when it comes to the VMFA’s position. Other people have claimed that the behavior of the Virginia Flaggers has not helped matters: Susan Hathaway’s disappearance from the sidewalk can be traced to concern about repercussions should the VMFA complain to her employer, who has contracts with the VMFA, about her conduct.

In short, although the Virginia Flaggers like to talk about their importance to the cause of Confederate heritage, all they have done is to testify to their impotence when it comes to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. All the Flaggers have achieved during the past several weeks is to erect a third, rather small, flag in downtown Lexington. They claim that size doesn’t matter, but that location is everything.

As before, the blog “Southern Flaggers” offered the claim that the VMFA was in violation of Virginia state law when it acted as it did. Yet, although the Virginia Flaggers have been around for four and a half years, the organization has failed to fight for the rights of Confederate heritage by filing a lawsuit. They have raised money for more flagpoles and flags, and raised money to defend Tripp Lewis when Lewis ran afoul of the law, but they have failed to raise money to battle the VMFA in court. That is a clear demonstration of the group’s priorities: spectacle over substance. Nor have we seen either the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Southern Legal Research Center, led by Kirk David Lyons, take legal action. This is a rather limp defense of Confederate heritage, suggesting that some folks don’t want to put their money where their mouth is. Perhaps all they want to do is to walk the sidewalks and run their mouths.

Confederate heritage deserves better … although critics of Confederate heritage smile when such tomfoolery is passed off as defending Confederate heritage. After all, isn’t it time for another prom dress lawsuit?

The failure of the Virginia Flaggers and other Confederate heritage groups to take effective action against the VMFA suggests that the real weakness in the movement is internal, not external. Kevin Levin has written that more and more people are turning their backs on a fading Confederate heritage. He may be right, although I don’t care to make such predictions. I’ve already offered my take on this issue. But what has happened at the Confederate War Memorial Chapel … and what has not happened … testifies to the ineffectiveness of Confederate heritage groups and their failure to take meaningful action to protect what they claim to prize so dearly.

There are those people who think that certain Confederate heritage groups are their own worst enemies. There are other critics who claim that they are the unwitting allies of their critics, almost as if they are a false flag operation (pun intended). What seems clear is that the case of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel clearly demonstrates the inability of certain people to effect meaningful and lasting change.

Nothing to see here, folks … just move along.

Now What?

The flags won't be returned.
The flags won’t be returned.

Word comes from a Richmond newspaper that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has decided to alter its arrangement with a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans concerning the management of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the VMFA. ┬áThe SCV chapter will no longer lease the chapel: instead, it agreed to a “use agreement,” terms of which were not specified in the newspaper report.

I guess that answers this question.

The VMFA will take over interpretation of the chapel, and operate it during VMFA hours (securing increased availability for visitors).

No word yet on whether the once-vocal chief of heritage operations, Ben Jones, will respond to this news. We have pondered his silence concerning the VMFA and the chapel before. Maybe he doesn’t think it’s very important.

Otherwise, one suspects, all will remain as before. Clearly efforts to return the flags to the exterior of the chapel have encountered another roadblock. Indeed, if hearts and minds have been changed, it seems that the hearts and minds of people at the VMFA have become even more determined to pursue the course marked out in 2010.

 

Remembering and Defining Confederate and Civil War Heritage

It is to be expected that some people would take advantage of the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox (sometimes seen as the end of the Civil War, although that’s wrong) to reflect on how Americans remember the Civil War. However, that topic tends to be confused with speculation on whether Confederate heritage persists or is eroding.

Continue reading

Research Exercise: Where Are the Flags?

Our friends at the Virginia Flaggers recently offered this 1908 photograph of the Old Soldiers Home at Richmond:

VMFA 1908

They also offered this text:

Old Soldiers Home, Richmond Virginia, Circa 1908. Look closely at the photo and you will see Veterans in their wheelchairs on the porch on the right. These men answered the call of Virginia to defend her from invasion. They fought with honor and bravery, and spent the last years of their lives on these grounds, now desecrated by the Commonwealth and the VMFA.

RETURN the flags!
RESTORE the honor!

For the flags to be returned, they must be visible in the first place. Could someone show me where there’s a Confederate flag in this photograph?

Indeed, let’s ask: where’s an image of the Confederate flag flying from the portico of the War Memorial Chapel before 1993? Anyone? Bueller?

(Substitute “Hathaway” and the effect is the same.)

No, showing me Confederate flags flying elsewhere on the grounds won’t do, folks. Show me the War Memorial Chapel with flags flying from the building itself … prior to 1993.

Poll Questions: The VMFA, the SCV, and the War Memorial Chapel

We have two poll questions for you to consider today.

The first concerns whether you think the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will permit the return of the Confederate battle flag (or any other Confederate flag) to the portico on an ongoing basis when it renews its agreement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ camp. This isn’t asking you what the VMFA should do, but what you think it will do.

The second concerns what the SCV should do if the VMFA adheres to its present position concerning the display of these flags. We’ve hear explanations that the SCV’s representatives didn’t know what hit them in 2010, but, whatever you make of those explanations, they no longer apply. Everyone knows the current situation.

Enjoy … the comments section is open.

“Restore the Honor!”

One of the pet phrases of the Confederate heritage group known as the Virginia Flaggers is “Restore the Honor! Return the Flags!” The target of this declaration is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, because the Virginia Flaggers hold that institution accountable for the removal of Confederate flags outside the Memorial Chapel back in 2010. Never mind that that other groups, including the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, were complicit in that decision. No one forced the SCV to sign that agreement.

Continue reading

The Past Two (Boring) Weeks in Confederate Heritage: February 2, 2015

CSA rage

Several weeks ago I prepared the usual TWICH post to cover events during Lee-Jackson Day. Then I thought about it. There would be no real surprises. Indeed, there were several things I expected (such as a new flag going up … I called Lexington as a possible site some time ago). Then more interesting subjects came before me. So I now offer this, largely out of obligation, and with adjustments made to reflect the passage of time. However, I warn you: there are no spoiler alerts, because nothing much happened.

Besides, I now know that posting this will puzzle Gary Gallagher. So here we go …

Continue reading

Misuse of the Confederate Battle Flag: Two Examples

I know that some people believe it is very important to highlight misuses of the Confederate battle flag, or, as we’re so often told, “the soldiers’ flag.”

In the words of another blogger, I couldn’t agree more, and nothing could please me more than to highlight two recent examples.

First, take a look at this representation of wartime Richmond, Virginia:

wartime Richmond flag

OMG. The Confederate battle flag did not fly above the state house. Rather, it would have been one of the national flags. Wow. What a mistake. But not everyone knows it. We need to teach those people about the proper history of the Confederate battle flag.

And then there is the recent matter of the display of the Confederate battle flag in a “flags that flew over Florida” display in Pensacola, Florida:

pensacola flags

No, no, no, no. Again, one of the Confederacy’s national flags might have done the trick, but the CBF never flew over the state. Some Confederate soldiers from Florida may have waived the mighty banner, but, as anyone knows, that’s different.

Thankfully the folks in Pensacola have decided to take down that flag. No word on whether it will be replaced.

People, it’s time that y’all learned the proper way to display the Confederate battle flag. Any questions?