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A divisive flag makes it to D.C.

By Bryan McKenzie
Published: January 31, 2009

Apparently they weren’t expecting a black man in a Confederate uniform to carry the Confederate battle flag into the Union’s capital.

H.K. Edgerton, who marched through Charlottesville on Jan. 16 on his way to seek a parlay with President Barack Obama, entered the capital Jan. 22 and drew a bit of a crowd.

“We came down to Georgetown and the people started paying attention,” Mr. Edgerton said. “People were taking a lot of pictures as we walked to the White House. The police stopped me and asked a lot of questions. They figured I wasn’t a threat and told me to have a nice day, but be careful. ‘You’re carrying a Confederate flag,’ they said. I said that I knew that. I put it on that morning.”

A long walk

Mr. Edgerton took his flag and some friends on the walk in hopes of raising awareness of Confederate heritage, the role that blacks played in the formation of the South, the role they played in defending the Confederacy and their homes during the Civil War and the importance of Southern culture.

He wrapped all of those goals into one: He wants the battle flag recognized as a symbol of culture rather than racism. It’s a goal he shares with many.

“I’m with H.K.: The flag is not about hatred, but about a way of life, a culture that blacks and whites who grew up in the South share,” said John Ledingham, quartermaster of the Garland-Rodes Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Lynchburg. Mr. Ledingham and the Lynchburg camp supported Mr. Edgerton’s effort with funding and logistical help.

“Our hope is that by officially making the flag a symbol of heritage, it will take it away from the hate groups as an effective symbol and give it back to the people whose ancestors served bravely beneath it,” Mr. Ledingham said.

“It attracts a lot of attention. I’ve been carrying this flag for a long time and a lot of miles and I’m used to it,” Mr. Edgerton said. “I’d get about 19 positive responses for what I was trying to do and one person who’d say I was crazy. Of course, it’s the crazy that always gets reported.”

Speaking on the South

Some who met Mr. Edgerton heard the message. Some did not.

“I met with a lot of black people who asked a lot of questions and I’m very proud that they were very understanding. There were some who wouldn’t listen and I appreciate that,” he said. “I handed my letter to the president to the guard at the [White House] gate and gave a short speech to some people who were there and answered questions.”

The president, Mr. Edgerton noted, was unable to meet with him. Random people, however, took up the slack.

“I listened to a young black man espouse to a rather large gathering of citizens who were busily taking pictures that they should respect any man who ‘is brave enough to come [to Washington] carrying the Confederate battle flag. By doing so at a time when we have a president of color embracing the likes of Abraham Lincoln, he is putting his life on the line and deserves high praise whether he is from the South or North.’”

Mr. Edgerton’s march, and the experiences along the way, have left him hopeful.

“I met a lot of people and talked to a lot of people and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the positive response I’ve received, especially from people in the North,” he said. “It’s a long road, but there’s hope.”

©2009 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC

On The Web: http://www.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/opinion/columnists_bryan_mckenzie/article/a_divisive_flag_makes_it_to_d.c/35026/