Ben Jones has resigned as chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Yes, he did. Right here.
Susan Hathaway may be silent when it comes to Raymond Agnor or Anonymous CSA, but she loves to sing … especially “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.”
Here are the original 1878 lyrics to that song:
Carry me back to old Virginia (or Virginny),
There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow,
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go,
There’s where I labored so hard for old massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn,
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginia, the state where I was born.
CHORUS: Carry me back to old Virginia,
There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow,
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.
Carry me back to old Virginia,
There let me live ’till I wither and decay,
Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
There’s where this old darkey’s life will pass away.
Massa and missis have long gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore,
There we’ll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There’s where we’ll meet and we’ll never part no more.
Note that this is a post-Civil War set of lyrics, so its usefulness to honor the service of Confederate soldiers is problematic.
Of course, modern eyes would see something else problematic about the song’s lyrics. In 1997 the commonwealth of Virginia responded to that criticism by adopting a new state song.
However, Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers remain fond of the song, and Susan likes to sing it. She did last month at a Flagger function covered by Richmond media. The reporter shared the lyrics (which Hathaway thoughtfully provided) to her readers. Blogger Al Mackey noted the media account, complete with film.
Here’s Susan’s offering her talents in 2014:
We appreciate that Susan likes to identify with “darkeys,” as people once called African Americans. We hope that she still identifies with African Americans as she addresses Mr. Agnor’s restrictions barring black people from his land (although Connie Chastain seems just fine with such exclusions). After all, the Flaggers owe that respect to their colleague, Karen Cooper.
Karen told us that slavery’s a choice, Susan. So’s your silence. So’s your song and lyrics choice. We know people by the choices they make. Choose wisely.
The silence from Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers about their association with Raymond Agnor and about speculation about the identity of Anonymous CSA is deafening.
We know that Susan Hathaway and Connie Chastain are friends. Heck, Connie’s posted evidence of their exchanges on her blog, where they were agreeing on strategy in light of the death of Anthony Hervey. So we know that if we were off base about either Agnor or Anonymous CSA, we’d hear about it in a series of cackling screeching posts, much like this:
But what has Chastain said about Anonymous CSA?
And what has she said about Raymond Agnor’s association with the Virginia Flaggers?
But then we all know the common reaction to a Backass post:
It appears that Susan Hathaway wants to remain silent in the face of evidence of discrimination against her fellow Virginia Flagger, Karen Cooper. Why she would choose to involve the Flaggers with someone with Mr. Agnor’s views is best left for her to explain.
Then again, we know two ways in which the Virginia Flaggers and the Sons of Confederate Veterans are one and the same:
 They both claim they don’t tolerate racism and discrimination based on race.
 Neither is telling the truth.
We are coming upon forty days since a person fond of the Confederate flag gunned down nine people in cold blood in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Within days outrage and anger about that event became transformed into a rather testy debate over Confederate heritage and its symbols, with South Carolina’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia marking a important moment.
Of course, the debate did not stop there. People argued about removing the Confederate flag from license plates, famous TV cars, and National Park shops; there were discussions about moving (or simply removing) statues and one pair of bodies. As might be expected, defenders of Confederate heritage rose up in opposition and did their best to suggest that they were making up ground, although several of these protests were somewhat less impressive than their supporters claimed. For example, at its height a protest in Fredericksburg, Virginia, drew less than three
thousand hundred dozen people, as this film suggests … and not a lot of people were paying any attention:
By the way, my understanding is that this was not a Virginia Flaggers function … too many people for that. But I also understand that 149 people promised to show up. Desertion remains a Confederate tradition.
By now we have a pretty good idea about what will happen. The once-surging tide will now begin to recede … not because Confederate heritage advocates have prevailed (they have lost serious ground) but because people soon get interested in other things. What happened in Columbia remains the emotional high point of this recent controversy. As many people pointed out, at most it was a first step in addressing far more serious questions. But it did not mark an end to gun violence, as we’ve seen since then; it did not mark an end to racism or to white supremacy; and in fact it remains to be seen whether the discussion that commenced on the heels of the Charleston murders will persist before people grow tired of it or turn their attention to the Kardashians or Donald Trump. Certainly the debates have grown predictable once more (and a little boring); while I expect to see a few more flashpoints in the fight over Confederate heritage in the coming weeks, I think the front is stabilizing, so to speak, as people sort out gains and losses.
This is not to minimize the importance of the discussion, merely its persistence. While the participants may continue to argue, the attention-span of the broader American public, always short, will decline absent another vivid event. Some people swept up in the initial fervor that looked as if it would sweep everything before it will find that there are other things to talk about, and it remains to be seen how many proposals will be acted upon. More will happen than one might have anticipated two months ago, but less than one hoped (or feared) might happen three weeks ago.
What do you think? What really happened over the last forty days? What will persist? What has changed? You tell me.
John Hennessy is one of the jewels of the National Park Service. The chief historian of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park combines the talents of a skilled military historian with an ability to reflect upon the broader issues of war and peace, slavery and emancipation, and history and memory. During the Civil War sesquicentennial he played a major role in helping Americans to understand what had happened between 1861 and 1865 and what generations since made of it.
What follows are several of John’s more memorable commentaries. Together they make for a good weekend’s listening.
In 2012 he discussed how the Union army became an army of liberation (filled with reluctant liberators) in and about Fredericksburg as emancipation took effect:
Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage is often assumed to describe the battle for Chancellorsville, and John took that as his point of departure in 2013:
The following year, John described the horrors of the battle of the Wilderness:
Finally, in 2015, John spoke at the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant in Wilmer McLean’s parlor at Appomattox Court House.
Earlier this year he reflected upon the legacies of the American Civil War.
Finally, thanks to Ted Schubel, you can hear John reflect last night on how we understand history as he spoke at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania. It’s John at his best.
John Hennessy’s worth listening to because he has something to say, and that something makes you think and reflect. Sometimes what he says upsets certain people, who seem afraid of listening and thinking. That’s to be expected: it’s hard to say something worthwhile without disturbing someone, and if you don’t make people think, you might very well be wasting your time. Listening to John is never a waste of your time.
You’ll recall our coverage of a recent dispute in Lexington, Virginia, concerning an ad placed by one Raymond Agnor in a local paper barring blacks and Democrats from his land “until further notice.” It was upon Mr. Agnor’s property that the Virginia Flaggers claimed another grand heritage triumph when they raised a flag there some time back.
Except it doesn’t seem to be the Virginia Flaggers’ flag any more. It’s now Mr. Agnor’s flag in this newspaper article covering the dispute. The Flaggers have been reduced to a footnote in the story.
For their part, the Virginia Flaggers and their mouthpiece, screeching Connie Chastain, have remained silent on this issue on various social media and Chastain’s hate blog. To defend Agnor’s comments would be to embrace his racism, something they prefer not to share with the public; however, Agnor’s racism prohibits Virginia Flagger icon Karen Cooper from visiting the flag, and neither Susan Hathaway, Tripp Lewis, Grayson Jennings, Barry Isenhour, nor Chastain really wants to defend Cooper, either, in a rather revealing example of how they can discard Cooper when the mood strikes them.
Clearly neither the Virginia Flaggers nor Chastain really hate racism, even when it’s directed against one of their own … which tells you how they really feel about Karen Cooper. You would think, for example, instead of attacking me day after day, Chastain would speak out about this once … but she doesn’t. Apparently Agnor’s racism is acceptable to her, Cooper be damned. The same goes for the Flaggers, who are silent about a lot of damaging allegations lately. Skeered, Susan Hathaway?
It’s sad, really, how the Flaggers exploit Cooper while failing to stand up for her when one of their own shares such racist sentiments. But then this might just reveal what the Flaggers really believe when it comes to race. After all, they embraced Agnor for his land. Now they can’t decide whether to defend one of their own or remain silent when Agnor reveals his racism …. unless Agnor, too, is more revealing of who the Flaggers really are.
I see that I’ve touched a nerve by commenting on Stone Mountain and recent discussions about the portrayal of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. I’ve seen a lot of passion, but not a lot of reason, in some of the responses.
Stone Mountain, Georgia, is many things to many people, but one cannot dispute that it is a place that celebrates Confederate heritage. Sometimes the connection might make some people feel uneasy (not so for others). Nor is it the first time the Confederate carvings there have been the subject of controversy. But here we are again, as people discuss what to do with Stone Mountain … if anything.
Last weekend, Confederate heritage activist Anthony Hervey died as a result of a car accident in Mississippi. He was returning from a Confederate heritage rally in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was a featured speaker.
With Hervey was Arlene Barnum, who told authorities that the car accident was no accident at all, but was the result of a car chasing Hervey and Barnum.
Mississippi authorities are investigating the accident. Other folks, however, took Barnum’s story and ran with it. Soon there appeared claims that Hervey was murdered, that it was a hate crime, and Hervey was a martyr to Confederate heritage. Others began questioning Barnum’s account.