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There is no honor or dignity in slavery
John Boyle, columnist
Published 01/20/01

So there he was again, the Black man dressed in his Confederate uniform, cheerfully waving a Confederate flag.

This time H.K. Edgerton was on the corner of College Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, waiting for a crowd of several hundred people honoring the slain civil rights leader to file by.

"I think Martin Luther King would've wanted me to be here," Edgerton said, his forceful cadence reminding me of a preacher. "He knew that African-Americans achieved a place of honor and respect under this flag."

As usual, he went on and on about the dignity and love Blacks and Whites shared as slave and owner. He wore a sign declaring, "Heritage not hate."

Visit Beyond Face Value an online exhibit focusing on slavery depicted in money notes issued and circulated in the South during the Civil War.

For two and a half years now he's been waving the Confederate flag and spouting the same old dreck. Man, I wish this guy would give it a rest and quit embarrassing himself and Asheville.

"I don't think any Black feels dignity or pride toward that flag except H.K.," said Gail Smith, an Asheville native and MLK Day marcher.

"I don't think there was any honor or dignity in slavery," said another marcher and Asheville native Larry Fair. "There was humiliation."

I don't believe in ignoring the past or painting all Confederates as hate-mongers and slavemasters. As did Union soldiers, many Confederates fought with dignity and honor.

And yes, the war was partly about states' rights, but one of those was the right to own slaves. It's even in the Confederate Constitution adopted March 11, 1861 in a section about acquiring new territory. Negro slavery, it says, "shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government..."

In a speech in Savannah, Ga., on March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens spoke about the new Confederate Constitution. The document, he said, "put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution - African slavery as it exists amongst us - the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution."

He went on to state that the Confederacy's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition."

So I hope that settles that. Now, about how wonderful life was as a slave. I've got an idea: If you think slavery was so great, H.K., how about being my slave?

Here's the deal: you get to live in my unheated garage with the cat, you'll eat the cheapest food I can find, I get to violate your wife and daughters whenever I want, and if you give me any lip I'll whip you till your back is raw. Complain about my treatment of your family and I'll sell them down river and you'll never see them again. Of course, you'll work at least 12 hours a day, unpaid. And you get to call me only "Massuh Boyle."

Oh, and you can wave that Confederate flag all you want.

John Boyle's column appears on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Contact him at 232-5847 or



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John Boyle, feature writer and columnist, joined the Citizen-Times in March 1995. A native of Richmond, Va., Boyle graduated in 1986 from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

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