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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: Civil War History: Truth or Propaganda

Friday, August 27, 2010

Civil War History: Truth or Propaganda

Brandon H. Kelley
Instructor Lauri Goodling
English 1101-002
April, 21 2008

History is supposed to be a record of true events. Records that are passed down from teacher to student, father to son, and old to young. Why then, are there so many views of one event? Society would like to think that it passes on correct information to its offspring to provide evidence that the old generation that once existed is etched in the minds of those left behind when they are gone. Is it possible that, at some point in the past, those teachers altered the true facts and ideas behind an event leading to a contorted view of the world as we know it?

I had no idea, that on an otherwise average day, I would see a man standing in front of a school that would make me reconsider a lot of what I had thought to be true about the American Civil War. He was standing with a very still, non-imposing posture holding what appeared to be a Confederate battle flag. Living in north Georgia, that is not an uncommon site to behold, but something made me go back for a second look. This time around I looked at the man and not the banner. I saw a small framed man who looked to be around 60 years old proudly waving and chatting with passers-by. He was well dressed and certainly not the person I had expected to see underneath the St. Andrews cross banner. His name, as I found out later, is H.K. Edgerton.

Something kept nagging at me after I made it to the coffee shop. I tossed around all of the why not’s in my head until finally, I decided I wasn’t going to let it go until I went back and talked to him. Usually, this kind of thing is not in my nature, but I felt bound to seek out this mans story, because I knew that he had one tell. So I picked up a regular coffee to go and set off to talk to this man that was holding a confederate flag in front of Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia. It might be important that I mention that Mr. Edgerton is an African American man. I think that might have been why this was captured my curiosity so.

I parked and approached him, I don’t know why exactly, but I was very nervous. I handed him the coffee and explained to him why I had stopped. Looking back I wish I had asked a more intelligent question but all I could manage to get out was: “Why are you holding that flag here?” He smiled, I am sure he knew that was coming. I then told him that I am a student in college and I am trying to write an analysis essay. I told him that I saw him standing here with that flag and thought he might be a source of information for my project.

He told me that during the Civil War, thousands of black people in the south fought and died under this flag. He said they were not forced to do this, but they felt like they were fighting for their home and their way of life. He believes that children today are given information in schools that do not cover the whole story and gives the youth of this country the false ideology that his flag portrays oppression or slavery. His website has many letters, essays, and statements from people who know or believe that a side of the history of the Civil War has never been brought into the light of modern day society.

The subject that I am analyzing is broad and encompasses many different topics. It can be included in current events, film, propaganda, racism, American history, and literature. So the only place to start is here with Mr. Edgerton and his reasons for standing alone in front of a school, holding a piece of fabric that represents love and honor to some, absolute hatred and shame to others, and to me a great irony that has torn this country in two once and could threaten to do so again.

I have been taught that the Civil War was about slavery. The north wanted it gone and the south wanted to keep it. The issues were actually a lot deeper than that, but that is a paper in itself. I believe that Mr. Edgerton was holding that flag because he does not want the heritage, his heritage, to be lost in political correctness. The media invests a large amount of effort in blanketing issues in so many nice words that the point gets lost in the filler. Political correctness is great as long as it does not obscure the facts and sugarcoat an issue to the point that the issue itself disappears in politeness.

Mr. Edgerton is proud that he is black and he is proud that he is southern. He is proud that his ancestors fought under the flag that he holds in his hands. Most black people that I know see that fabric as a banner of oppression and hatred, he looks at it like it is a scrap book his family made that shows where he comes from. Isn’t that why we study history? History tells us where we have been and often where we are going if we do the same things again. No one believes that slavery is a good thing, but this man whose family was once slaves themselves still holds up the flag that so many say represents it.

So what does represent slavery or racism? Can it be a piece of fabric? Does the American flag mean equality and justice for all? The answer is no. Racism comes from inside the person who looks at a piece of fabric and only thinks of slavery. The truth is that men and women, white and black, fought under that flag defending the south. Did they fight for slavery? I don’t think so. They fought for the freedom to be who they wanted to be. The political correctness in our society obscures the truth behind events. In today’s society, it would be improper to think of Abraham Lincoln as a warmonger who pushed his own ideology on a group of people that were different and believed differently than him.

The truth is that I don’t know the truth. Having read the things that I have read after meeting Mr. Edgerton, I do have some doubts on the version of history that I thought I knew. I think that most of what we learn in public schools about our history is propaganda and biased to point us where the politically correct and politically minded want us to go. The only way that our society is ever going to get over the wrongs and the problems of the past is to learn the truth about where we come from, and know what we do and do not want to be. A very nice black man holding a Confederate flag on the side of the road showed me that. I just hoped that I listened well.


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