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Vance was great man despite task force’s ignorance of history, black ‘living’ historian/ heritage activist says
Friday, 01 January 2021 14:37

First in a series

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As for the question of whether to demolish the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville, or repurpose it, H.K. Edgerton — a black Asheville native who was born and grew up the city during the Jim Crow era and now bills himself as a Southern heritage civil rights activist — thinks the answer is simple.

Edgerton says the 75-foot granite obelisk honoring Weaverville native Zebulon B. Vance needs to be allowed to remain the centerpoint in the heart of Asheville — forever, and the only change he would like to see is the removal of  scaffolding encircling it.

In a lengthy telephone interview with the Daily Planet on Dec. 22, Edgerton said that Vance, contrary to the “uninformed” view of the city-appointed Vance Monument Task Force, was “one of the greatest men that’s ever lived” — and that the monument is “a memorialization” of his greatness..

After a pause, Edgerton asserted the irony, in his view, that Vance “was certainly greater than anyone on City Council or the County Commissioners... These people are bent on Southern social and cultural genocide... BLM ... The Democratic Party is guilty, too. I don’t even want to get into that part.”


Edgerton also contended that the Vance Monument Task Force — as well as others who are vilifying Vance for owning slaves, fighting for the Confederacy and making a some negative comments about blacks — is horrifyingly ignorant on the subject, despite their contentions to the contrary.

Edgerton said he has engaged decision-makers on the monument’s fate in conversations about Vance — and he described seeing them get nervous and become vague when he asked pointed questions that anyone who has studied Vance in any depth would know. In fact, in his view, everyone he spoke with about Vance on the task force was just about ignorant about him , aside from the prevailing false  narrative — among the area’s current leaders — that Vance was a horrible human being.

Edgerton, who has read many books on the Civil War and the Reconstruction South, as well as attending countless lectures on the topics from all sides, including with Confederate and Southern heritage organizatons, said he had been hoping he would be called on by the task force to share his viewpoint.

However, for what he suspects was an issue of council and its task force simply wanting the memorial removed, he never was called upon by the task force to share his views.

The issue orginally before the task force was whether to demolish or repurpose the monument — or move it.. However, the latter course drew concerns because some citizens feared that that obelisk, in another location, could become “a shrine” that would attract white supremacists and Satanists.

“It’s already a shrine!” Edgerton asserted. “Just say ‘slavery’ and the black folks will get in line. I have a problem with that. I’ve got a large problem with that. That’s how we (blacks) are getting used” by white leftists.

“They are the ones who were Satanic... Reparations — and knowing full well that you (Asheville) have no money for reparations.

“Asheville, being the kind of city it is (tourist-driven), has basically never had the kind of (racial) tensions that other places had. The bottom line is, I don’t know if there ever was a successful black man unless there was a successful white man who liked him  ...was behind him.  I was the first black man to go to work at as a black electrician at M.B. Haynes. They sent me to A-B Tech (to learn to be an electrician),” based off company officials’ noticing both his “good manners and hard work,” Edgerton said.

As for Vance, Edgerton said, “He was godly man and when you are that, it takes up a lot of territory. When Robert E. Lee (or other Confederate leaders) needed” someone for something important, “he called on Vance. When he got through (with the assigned task), it’s what he had to tell you about the situation that was (even more) valuable,” Lee and others often said of Vance, Edgerton recounted.

Also, Vance was a stunning attorney. “When he went into the courtroom, (it was said) the whole town stopped working” so that everyone could keep up with Vance’s legal work.

“USA Today wrote (in its current Confederacy series appearing Gannett member newspapers, including locally the Asheville Citizen Times, Hendersonville Times-News, Greenville (S.C.) and Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal) about the women in the Daughters of the Confederacy across the South, bringing in (history) books (to the schools) that don’t tell the truth, and a historian was a liar. Excuse me. The only lies that were told is what they (USA Today) told. (John C.) Calhoun wrote the truth.

“It’s good to remember history. There’s some things in history that you don’t want to happen again. There’s some things that happened that you do want to happen again.

“What these people (on Asheville’s council and the task force) are doing against statues is the same thing the North was doing to the South during the Civil War” — destroying it and trying to rob it of its heritage.

At that point, Edgerton noted that he was and still remains an ardent admirer of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He has read many of his works and considers King one of the greatest leaders — and human beings — in history.

With a chuckle, Edgerton recounted that in 1989 on Martin Luther King Day, Asheville High asked him, if, as president of local NAACP, he would lead a program at the school on King.

Edgerton said he was stunned when “I asked the kids what they remembered about Martin Luther King — and they said the only thing they know is...  ‘It’s a holiday!”

Turning back to the topic of Vance, Edgerton asserted, “The Jewish people said they’d never give a ‘no’ vote on any account involving Zebulon B. Vance,” as he was known as the biggest defender of North Carolina’s Jews during his era, and spoke strongly against anti-Semitism.

“So,” Edgerton said, “when (Jewish) Mayor Esther Manheimer not only fails to stand up for Vance,” but leads in trashing him. “It is politics of the worst kind —  “just blindly lie, steal, rob.” And “they lied” about Vance.

To that end (the erasure — and rewriting—  of history), Edgerton said he recently was asked, “How could a man of your persuasion (black) defend the Confederacy and the battle flag” and everything else involved in preserving Southern heritage?

His answer, he said, was that “I’ve been in civil rights most of my life, even with Student Council at Stephens Lee High School (the segregated black high school for the Asheville area), when I was a kid in 1960s.”

However, today’s effort by those who not only want to erase history, but then to rewrite it in a way they feel would be beneficial to their goals, “is the worst I’ve seen in my life. People defending thugs. 

“I was the president of the (local) NAACP,” working for civil rights. “I was in French class in high school when John F. Kennedy was killed,” followed later by the slayngs of Bobby Kennedy and MLK.

Having studied and observed the aforementioned exceptional leaders, Edgerton said Vance ranks up there with the best and “to demonize this man and slander his name” is beyond what he can stand silently in the wings and let go without a challenge.

“What you’re attacking is the fact that he was a Confederate colonel,” he said of Vance’s present-day critics. “It’s no secret that the War for Southern Independence” was to preserve the Southern way of life, including slavery.

However, Edgerton said, “There’s a movement in this country (today) to change it into something else,” in a reference to white supremacy.

“People talk about the economic institution of slavery, while not knowing the whole world (at the time) was complicit in it, including Africans.

As for Vance, “They couldn’t get to that man’s heart... His men fighting insurmountable odds... These folks have changed the whole narrative. And the thing that bothers me is those people who have no knowledge (was the thinking was) between those folks who lived on the north side and south side of the Mason-Dixon line.

“Africans (working with whites) were complicit in the institution of slavery and sent blacks everywhere” in the world, including to the American South, Edgerton said.

Many in Africa now express the view, “Poor black folks — we’re so sorry for what we’ve done to you,” Edgerton noted.

As for the Black Lives Matter activist group, “not only do the white folks not like what you have done… I was born and raised in this city… and lived through Jim Crow…. The only thing you’ve (BLM) done is make white folks who might have liked me dislike me even more” for the property damage, looting and violence exhibited in downtown Asheville.

Returning the the issue of the character of Vance, Edgerton said, “These people should be ashamed of themselves. You’re talking about a man who lived the modus operandi of Jesus Christ, himself. This man gave speeches” that were timeless and brilliant, citing a collection of his addresses in the book “Zebulon V. Vance and ‘The Scattered Nation’” by Maurice A. Weinstein.

As for the George Floyd case (a black man who died on May 25, after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee), which is widely cited as fueling the left’s protest movement through much of 2020, Edgerton said ,”Here’s a man who lost his life in Minneapolis — and I don’t know why it (the protests) came into the South.

“They’ve been doing that since Harriet Beecher Stowe in the Southland of America.” (Stowe was an abolitionist and author who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852, depicting the harsh conditions of black slaves in the South. Some later blamed the popular book’s persuasiveness and moral indignation for causing the Civil War.)

Edgerton also pointed out that “Howard University was named after a man named (Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis) Howard (a native of Maine and a Civil War hero for the union)  — and nobody has any idea of what kind of man he was.” 

Edgerton reiterated his stance that no human being is perfect, even the greatest ones. But despite flaws, Edgerton said people should be able to see beyond them to certain people’s greatness.

“I’m not advocating going up to Washington Mall and dragging this statue down” of Robert E. Lee, as representatives of the Commonwealth of Virginia did recently.

Continuing, Edgerton said, “The Southern white man… One of the things the yankees saw when they” fought in the South is the close — even familial — relationships between the blacks and whites there.

All of that was destroyed by the South’s defeat in the Civil War and “black folks have been tricked and duped since Reconstruction” by certain whites with an own agenda for making use of blacks, Edgerton said.

“The people didn’t get the memo to do everything they could to retain a good relationship between the whites and blacks,” he lamented.

As for the dectractors of the Vance Monument, Edgerton said, “You talk down the ‘‘crown jewel’ of the city — this used to be a tourist town. All the yackety-yack” will likely drive many tourists away from Asheville.

“What really breaks my heart to hear that this godly man was evil. He was one of the most decorated attorneys... One of his greatest lectures was about his support of the Jewish people. The Jewish people have taken a bad rap all of the world” and Vance was the only one taking a strong stance to extol the virtues of the Jewish people.

“Vance eventually moved to Charlotte. People don’t talk about how the Jews helped to make the Queen City what it is” because it would not be politically correct today.

“Why are the Jews (of Asheville) silent (now)? I am an honorary life member of Honorary Life Member Zebulon Vance Camp 15 Sons of Confederate Veterans” and proudly not afraid to speak out in favor of Vance. “His family carved out this city.”

It seems, Edgerton said evenly, that there is nobody — but myself — to speak out” publicly for Vance and his monument.
— End of the first in a series of stories —

Part two in the H.K. Edgerton series on Zebulon B. Vance — and the fate of his monument — will appear in the next edition of the Asheville Daily Planet. 



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