Black Activist Proud to Defend His 'Southern Heritage'
By Michael L. Betsch Staff Writer
September 19, 2002

( - A slave descendant - wearing a Confederate soldier's uniform and waving the Confederate battle flag - plans to march 1,300 miles from North Carolina to Texas next month, in a show of support for his southern heritage.

"I'm going to strut like a peacock all the way," 55-year-old H.K. Edgerton told .

Edgerton, a former president of the Asheville, N.C., chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has been fighting to protect the Confederate flag and southern heritage for the past five years.

He currently serves as chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Southern Legal Resource Center, which describes itself as a "non-profit legal foundation waging a counter-offensive to preserve Southern Heritage."

Edgerton is also president of the North Carolina Heritage Preservation Association - a group more commonly associated with the descendants of slave owners.

Edgerton said he defends the Confederacy to expose the lies that liberal politicians, the media and civil rights groups continue to tell about the effects of slavery and the Civil War.

"All these folks want to twist our history and make out like black folks are so scared of the [Confederate] flag and they hate the Southland and hate white folks," Edgerton said. "Well, that's not true." According to him, black Americans earned a place of "honor and dignity" under the Confederate flag he now defends.

Civil rights activists, however, believe H.K. Edgerton is in denial about the atrocities of the slave system that brought his ancestor here in the 1780s.

Edgerton said he's marching because his allegiance to the South has always been strong, despite the fact that his ancestors were slaves. In fact, he believes his grandfather - a former slave - would embark upon the same journey in defense of his southern heritage if he were alive today.

Edgerton says his grandfather was deeded 500 acres of land in Rutherford County, N.C., by his former master after the Civil War. Edgerton said the bond between his ancestors and their master was so close they considered themselves "family."

Monroe Gilmour, a coordinator with the Western North Carolina Citizens For An End To Institutional Bigotry, said Edgerton used to be a very strong voice for black issues. Today, Edgerton's "a pathetic soul who's searching for love and has found it with white supremacists," he said.

Gilmour compared Edgerton to a Holocaust denier who can be presented with evidence of slavery and its brutality and just dismisses it. Further, he said, Edgerton has convinced himself that masters and slaves actually labored together to improve the South.

Tool of white separatists?

The issue at hand is not Edgerton and his upcoming march, Gilmour said. "It's our opinion that he is being used as camouflage for the white separatist and even supremacist use of folks like [the Southern Legal Resource Center's] Kirk Lyons."

Lyons, a spokesman for the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC), said he doesn't expect civil rights activists such as Gilmour to understand what motivates Edgerton to defend his southern heritage.

"Edgerton is a born-again Confederate and he has all the zeal of a convert. To him, it's become part of his life," Lyons said. "He's made friends he would probably have never made, unfortunately, if he was still president of the NAACP."

Lyons expects communities in the southern states that Edgerton visits to welcome him when he walks into town, carrying his Third National Flag of the Confederacy and wearing his Confederate uniform.

Lyons said the majority of southern people do not appreciate the NAACP's efforts to remove the Confederate banner from flagpoles in the South.

"The people in the South, black and white, love the Confederate flag," Lyons said. "You get out in the country where most of this walk will be and you'll find very, very few problems with somebody that displays the Confederate flag."

But some African-Americans considers Edgerton's pro-southern heritage advocacy as an affront.

When Edgerton attends a local Martin Luther King Peace Walk every year, wearing his uniform and waving the Confederate flag, "It feels as if he is there in defiance of what we're doing," Gilmour said.

E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.

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