On a cold, rainy Wednesday morning (February 26), students from elementary grade
to middle school stand and listen to H.K. Edgerton, talk about black history
on the side of a gently sloping hill in West Asheville.
The students are from a Buncombe County special education school on Sand Hill
Road. They’re surrounded by hundreds of stones that mark the graves of
slaves and by Edgerton, who’s leading the tour of the graveyard, and who
is not bothered in the least by the cold and rain. Edgerton expresses an enthusiasm
that the rain cannot dampen and the cold cannot chill. His demeanor ignites
the students to ask questions as hands go up to get Edgerton’s attention.
The students have come out as part of Black History month. They have come to
hear this outspoken defender of the Confederate Flag who preaches a history
of blacks in the old south that is nowhere close to being politically correct.
Betty Patterson is a teacher at one of the schools and helped organize the
trip to the slave cemetery that Edgerton began restoring in 2001. Edgerton learned
of the graveyard from a man named Don Taylor, whose family is buried in the
graveyard next to those of the slaves. Taylor knew the cemetery was in disrepair
and gave Edgerton permission to restore the graveyard. Edgerton spent months
working on the area and on setting headstones that had long been overturned
back in their upright position.
According to another teacher with the group, the children plan to make the
graveyard a community project by coming out once a month and to help with the
As the students started to do some work, Edgerton reminded them to be careful
with the headstones and not to disturb them when they are raking the leaves
away. Tree limbs which have fallen are picked up and put in piles.
Edgerton admits that he hasn’t been to the graveyard since his return
from his 1600-mile walk across the south from Asheville to Austin, Texas, which
he just completed at the end of last month. His lengthy walk in a Confederate
uniform while carrying the Southern Flag was to raise awareness that blacks
aided the Southern cause during the “War of Southern Independence,”
and that they earned the right to be proud of their Southern heritage.
Soon the students’ efforts began to end for the day due to weather conditions.
While Edgerton talked to reporters, one young white student came near and said,
“Thank you for teaching me about all this.”
“Get yourself over here and give me a hug,” demands Edgerton, and
the boy quickly walks over and “bear hugs” Edgerton. As the boy
walks away, he turns and says, “ I feel proud to be helping you.”
You can tell it is moments like this that Edgerton lives for and are really
what make him do what he does. According to Edgerton these moments make up for
the bad ones that he sometimes encounters.
Story filed by Clint Parker of the Tribune.