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A Riddle In Black And Grey

H.K. Edgerton asserts that what is commonly referred to as the Civil War should be called the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression.

He blames that war on a "greedy and thuggish and criminal" U.S. government, argues that "segregation was forced upon the Southland of America" and asks, "Where else in the world were slaves treated as well as the South?"

Stanley K. Lott calls Abraham Lincoln "a devil-tongued hypocrite" and laments the July 2000 removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the capitol in his home state of South Carolina.

"The flag I think they should really take down and burn is the American flag," he says.

Edgerton and Lott, ardent defenders of the Confederacy, are among the featured guests at Dixie Days, a Sons of Confederate Veterans event this weekend at Hanover County's Pole Green Park.

Both men are black.

Lott was born in Saluda, S.C., in 1960. He said he finished high school with the feeling that he'd been lied to about the war. He did some research.

His reading list included such books as "The South was Right," "Was Jefferson Davis Right?" and "Why Not Freedom!" - all by Walter D. and James R. Kennedy, both Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Lott concluded that the war was fought over high taxes and states rights, not slavery. Since then, he has self-published several books, including "The American Flag is the Real Slave Flag" and "The Truth about American Slavery."

Lott, who since a traffic accident has lived with his sister in New Jersey, said he once spoke regularly at Confederate events. "I'm kind of glad it slacked off because of the heat" from African-Americans and other people who disagreed with him.

"People can get very angry and nasty. Some people have called me a traitor," Lott said.

As for his family, "most of them think I'm crazy."

What would he say to black people who view him as an apologist and front man for neoconfederates?

"I would tell them . . . that we're not hurting black people, but we're actually trying to enlighten blacks to the truth of U.S. history and Southern history."

Edgerton will be joining Lott at Dixie Days, an event whose name sparked controversy two years ago. Hanover County no longer co-sponsors it.

Edgerton, 58, speaks in a frenetic cadence that is the opposite of Lott's drawl. He wields words like a fencer thrusts a sword.

He visited Richmond in 2003 to protest the unveiling of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. He returned the following year to DuPont's Spruance Plant on Jefferson Davis Highway to protest a prohibition on displays of Confederate flags there.

He's a former NAACP branch president in Asheville, N.C., where he came under fire following his association with Kirk Lyons, a lawyer the Southern Poverty Law Center has linked to white supremacists.

"I have been fighting for the downtrodden most of my life," Edgerton told me, "and my life has come full circle."

In interviewing Edgerton and Lott, I'd hoped to gain an understanding of what attracts them to a cause anathema to many African-Americans.

I can't say I succeeded.