Spirit of Confederate flag was not one of hatred
Published: March 13, 2008
To the Editor:
Your article regarding a Confederate flag issue at a Cumberland school was passed on to me and I was most surprised at your statement, "the Confederate flag - long a symbol of a tradition of hatred and violence against African-Americans."
I have researched and written on the American South for many years and cannot find any basis for this claim. The Confederate army is said to have employed thousands of black soldiers and this is well-documented. The very first black fighting unit in the War was the Louisiana Native Guards, mustered into state service in May 1861.
Unlike the later Northern segregated units, the Native Guards were commanded by black Southern officers and participated in the defense of New Orleans. There were also black Confederate soldiers who surrendered to Northern forces at nearby Fort Fisher in January 1865. These facts do not support the claim.
As the Ku Klux Klan is usually, and erroneously, connected with this view, we all know that the first Klan of the late 1860s had no flag to wave. And it will be recalled that the Klan was a postwar defensive measure that protected Southern white citizens from the notorious Union League of the radical Republicans, which fomented racial hatred between freedmen and Southern whites for political purposes.
The second Klan of the early 1900's was anti-immigrant in nature, and photographs of their Washington marches show the Stars & Stripes prominently displayed - not a Confederate flag. The idea of flag-waving Klansman is a modern invention and one meant to further inflame racial hatred, much like the old Union League of 1866. Again, no basis to the claim of hatred and violence against African Americans with the flag in question.
The solution to the Confederate flag issue at schools is an educational one. I encourage your newspaper to support an initiative which requires offended students to research the constitutional, economic and sectional origins of the war, the New England slave traders, the radical Union League, and the ultimate cost of the war in human lives and treasure.
After serious devotion to this study and a commitment to a diversity of sources for objective inquiry, I am confident the students will reach the conclusion that it was an unnecessary war, and the freedom of each slave could have been purchased many times over with the wealth expended by the North and South. And most importantly, they will discover in the Confederate flag the spirit of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.
Bernhard Thuersam, executive director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, N.C. 28402
© 2008, The Cumberland Times-News
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