NAACP to protest secession event
Organizer defends intent of play, dinner, dancing
By Robert Behre
Friday, December 3, 2010
The shots are solely verbal -- and expected to remain that way -- but at least one Civil War Sesquicentennial event is triggering conflict.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to hold a $100-per-person "Secession Ball" on Dec. 20 in Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. It will feature a play highlighting key moments from the signing of South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession 150 years ago, an act that severed the state's ties to the Union and put the nation on the path to the Civil War.
Jeff Antley, who is organizing the event, said the Secession Ball honors the men who stood up for their rights.
"To say that we are commemorating and celebrating the signers of the ordinance and the act of South Carolina going that route is an accurate statement," Antley said. "The secession movement in South Carolina was a demonstration of freedom."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans to protest the event, said Charleston branch President Dot Scott. She deferred further comment to Lonnie Randolph, president of the state NAACP.
"It's amazing to me how history can be rewritten to be what you wanted it to be rather than what happened," Randolph said. "You couldn't pay the folks in Charleston to hold a Holocaust gala, could you? But you know these are nothing but black people, so nobody pays them any attention."
When Southerners refer to states' rights, he said, "they are really talking about their idea of one right -- to buy and sell human beings."
Antley said that's not so.
"It has nothing to do with slavery as far as I'm concerned," he said. "What I'm doing is honoring the men from this state who stood up for their self-government and their rights under law -- the right to secede was understood."
Antley said, "Slavery is an abomination, but slavery is not just a Southern problem. It's an American problem. To lay the fault and the institution of slavery on the South is just ignorance of history."
Antley said about 500 people are expected to attend the ball, which begins with a 45-minute play and concludes with a dinner and dancing. S.C. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, an ardent Civil War re-enactor, is among the actors in the play. The actual ordinance of secession document also will be on display.
Randolph said the state NAACP is consulting with its national office in Baltimore regarding the format of the protests, which also could extend to other 150th anniversary events. "There is not one event that's off the table," he said.
Asked whether there could be good sesquicentennial events, Randolph said, "If there were a dialogue to sit down and discuss that event 150 years ago and how it still negatively impacts the lives of so many people in this state and around the country, that would be a good discussion, but not an event to sit down and tell lies about what happened and glamorize those people who thought America was so sorry and so bad that they wanted to blow it to hell. That's what they did -- that's what they attempted to do, and we want to make that honorable?"
Charleston is receiving increased national attention as the nation's plans for the sesquicentennial move forward. This was where it began, with the state becoming the first to secede on Dec. 20, 1860, and firing the first shot on April 12, 1861.
Most of the Lowcountry's sesquicentennial events have been announced with little controversy -- many involve lectures by respected historians and scholars.
In its vision statement for the observance, the National Park Service said it "will address the institution of slavery as the principal cause of the Civil War, as well as the transition from slavery to freedom -- after the war -- for the 4 million previously enslaved African Americans."
Michael Allen of the National Park Service said he is aware of plans for the Secession Ball but noted that most sesquicentennial events have found common ground among those with differing viewpoints.
"Now some people might be upset with some pieces of the pie. I understand that," Allen said. "I think that's the growth of me, as a person of African decent, is to realize that people view this in different ways."
Allen said other sesquicentennial commemorations being planned will mark events that have a strong black history component, such as Robert Smalls' theft of the Confederate ship Planter and the 54th Massachusetts' assault on Battery Wagner.
"At least what's being pulled together by various groups, be they black or white or whatever, will at least be more broad-based and diverse than what was done in 1961," Allen said. "Hopefully, at the end of the day, all Carolinians can benefit from this four-year journey."
Tom O'Rourke, director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, said sesquicentennial organizers were fooling themselves if they thought the Confederate side of the story was going to be buried in the observances.
"I think there will be controversy, I think there will be hurt feelings, and I think that as this anniversary passes, we will question what else we could have done to tell the whole story," he said. "But I am OK with all of that. ... I think all discussion is progress."
MESSAGE FROM SOUTH CAROLINA DIVISION COMMANDER SIMPSON
OFFICIAL communiqué from the South Carolina Division
Sons of Confederate Veterans
4 December 2010
Theatrical Performance and Secession Ball
Gaillard Auditorium Charleston, SC
Compatriots and Southern Brothers and Sisters
Our Confederate Heritage is continually under attack and now on the eve of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the secession of South Carolina, the “sesquicentennial war” has begun and the opposition has renewed its intent to bring dishonor and disgrace to the memory of the brave men and women who stood for true Constitutional Liberty and opposed a tyrannical and oppressive federal government. It has been announced that some groups are planning to stage a protest that night; we cannot allow this attack to go unanswered; we must speak now and do so loudly.
NAACP to protest secession event
The upcoming Commemorative Ball and Theatrical Performance, reenacting the signing of the SC Ordinance of Secession on December 20, 1860, has gained International attention and again placed South Carolina’s Confederate Heritage in the cross hairs of political correctness. What will you do….what can you do?
Realizing the season and Joy of Christmas is upon us and financial burdens rest heavy upon many families, it may be difficult or impossible for each of you to join us in Charleston for this historic event on MONDAY, DECEMBER 20th 2010. However, I am constantly reminded of the many sacrifices made by our Confederate fathers, many paying the ultimate sacrifice. If you have not secured tickets to this evening of celebration and remembrance, but somehow feel you can bear the weight of the cost, please make your plans to join us in large number to overwhelmingly validate our purpose, our heritage and our right to assemble without fear or reservation and tell the world we are Confederate and we are Southern.
Like the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the 170 men who “unanimously” signed the SC Ordinance of Secession, they risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor…..can we risk less?
If you cannot attend, please pray for the evening’s events and for all who will be present asking our Heavenly Father to grant His blessing, peace and mercy; all to His Glory. This is our time, our place, our Home. Join me and hundreds of other Southerners in Charleston to commemorate history and enjoy a one of a kind evening you will remember for the rest of your life!
In memory of the Men who wore the Gray!
Mark A. Simpson, Commander
South Carolina Division
Sons of Confederate Veterans