On Sunday July 19, 2015 Anthony Hervey was killed while driving home on Mississippi’s Highway 6 after attending a rally in Birmingham, Alabama to protest the city council’s decision to remove a Confederate monument in Linn Park.
A fellow passenger who survived the crash claimed that she and Hervey were being pursued by another vehicle containing four or five black men. The accident is under investigation, but given recent decisions at the state and local level to remove Confederate flags and monuments and the resulting conflicts witnessed recently, the reported cause of the crash may not come as a surprise. What may surprise readers is that Anthony Hervey was African-American.
Hervey was one of a very small but vocal group of African-American men and women who identify closely with a narrative of the Civil War that celebrates the Confederacy. These so-called “Black Confederates” have been embraced by heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In the wake of the South Carolina shootings, they have been front and center in a campaign that dates back to the late ’70s to convince the general public that thousands of free and enslaved blacks fought as soldiers in the Confederate army.
A resident of Oxford, Mississippi, Hervey was no stranger to the often contentious debates surrounding the display of the Confederate flag and other iconography. In 2000 he led protests to keep the Confederate flag flying atop the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina and closer to home, challenged the University of Mississippi’s attempt to replace its mascot, “Colonel Reb” and ban the singing of “Dixie” during football games.
Hervey was often seen wearing a Confederate uniform and carrying a large flag in front of Oxford’s soldier statue. Among his many signs could be read: “White Guilt=Black Genocide,” “The Welfare State Has Destroyed My People,” and “Please! Do Not Hire Me Because I Am Black.” According to Hervey, it is the policies of the federal government that have fueled suspicion and deepened the racial divide in the South. In his final speech in Birmingham, just before his fatal accident, Hervey said, “I don’t like black people. I don’t like white people… but I love the hell out of me some Southerners.”
It should be no surprise that Hervey’s outspokenness in support of the Confederacy and his conservative politics endeared him to crowds at pro-Confederate heritage rallies.
H. K. Edgerton of NorthCarolina
Others like honorary SCV member H.K. Edgerton of North Carolina—arguably the most visible pro-Confederate African-American—also appeared at rallies throughout the South following the shootings. A one-time president of Asheville’s chapter of the NAACP, in 2002-03 Edgerton walked 1,600 miles with the flag and in full Confederate uniform from North Carolina to Texas in opposition to government policies that divide the races and in support of Confederate heritage.
At the time of his walk Edgerton asserted, “If we Southerners don’t stand together we will lose our culture, heritage, religion and region to outsiders who sadly have no appreciation of the unique culture of being Southern.”
In Virginia, Karen Cooper has maintained a close relationship with the Virginia Flaggers, which organized in 2011 to protest the removal of the Confederate flag at the “Old Soldiers’ Home” in Richmond on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Originally from New York and a former member of the Nation of Islam, Cooper identifies closely with her new home and with Confederate heritage. She was introduced to the Virginia Flaggers through her involvement in the tea party and quickly found a home for her views on limited government and her strong stand against a welfare state that she believes has seriously harmed the black community.
As for the history of slavery in the South, Cooper brushes it aside as having existed throughout human history and, curiously, that for every individual it was “a choice.”
All three believe that racial unrest in the modern South and the recent divide over Confederate flags and monuments is the result of failed government policies and a false view of the history of the Confederacy. In their view, it was the Confederacy’s embrace of states rights and its own steps toward the recruitment of thousands of black Confederate soldiers that offered the promise of racial unity and equality. The willingness of all three to don Confederate uniforms and/or wave the flag offers a powerful visual reminder for those who continue to embrace a Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War—a narrative that rejects the preservation of slavery as the central goal of the Confederate experiment in independence in favor of a scenario wherein loyal black soldiers stood by their masters on the battlefield.
The Lousiana Native Guard, a group of local free black and Native American Men who Organized a Brigade to defend their home, New Orleans from invasion by the North. The confederate Generals denied them the opportunity to defend their city, resulting in the entire Brigade, consisting of two regiments defecting to the NOrth to become the US Colored Troops. The distinguished themselves fighting in the west, and would form the core of what would become The Buffalo Soldiers.
In their initial statement following the violent murder of nine black Charlestonians while attending Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church and the publication of photographs of Dylann Roof holding the Confederate flag, the South Carolina Division, SCV offered the following reminder:
“Historical fact shows there were Black Confederate soldiers. These brave men fought in the trenches beside their White brothers, all under the Confederate Battle Flag. This same Flag stands as a memorial to these soldiers on the grounds of the SC Statehouse today. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a historical honor society, does not delineate which Confederate soldier we will remember or honor. We cherish and revere the memory of all Confederate veterans. None of them, Black or White, shall be forgotten.”…Read the rest here