Recent events surrounding Floyd’s annual arts and crafts fair, the presence of a self-professed and discredited civil war "author" and "historian" and reactions stirred by the protests of local residents highlight the unfortunate existence of hate, racism and intolerance in our community.

At Café del Sol Saturday, I ran into one of those who protested and learned she and her husband have received hate mail at their home because they raised concerns about the presence, at the fair, of a Wytheville-born "author" who tries to paint slavery in a sympathetic light. I contributed to that debate with an earlier article on this site and area bloggers Fred First and Colleen Redman have also commented.

The Floyd Press covered the situation and Christian Trejbal of The Roanoke Times joined the fray today. His take:

Gary Walker has been a regular vendor for years. He’s an amateur historian who self-publishes books about the Civil War and sells them at the event.

He’s also a racist.

His revisionist history warms the hearts of some modern Confederates. After wading through his book, "The Truth about Slavery," I only felt dirty.

I’ve read the book along with others self-published by Walker.  Like Trejbal, I felt the need for a long, hot, cleansing shower after wading through his muck of poorly-researched, undocumented revisionist history.

As a journalist, I easily recognize opinion posing as fact and hasty conclusions passed off as research. As an American I understand that Walker and those like him, along with others who oppose him, have a right to express their opinions in a free society. As a Floyd Countian, I am ashamed he did it here.

His presence, indeed his publishing not only of books of elementary-level grammar and sentence construction, along with a coloring book that promotes slavery, reveals the level of racism that remains in our region.

The Ku Klux Klan still holds rallies at Burnt Chimney in Franklin County and still tries to march in parades in Hillsville and other communities. The "n-word" still flows freely in conversations in Floyd County and other places. Amy and I have heard it tossed around in conversation more often in our three years here than in 23 years of living in the Washington, DC, area. I’ve seen it on bumper stickers on local pickups and on t-shirts at the annual Carroll County Gun Show and Flea Market.

When a local resident cannot protest the presence of a racist "author" at a local fair dedicated to arts and crafts without receiving anonymous hate mail then racism and the ignorance and intolerance that accompany it still infects our community.

When I wrote about the situation a couple of weeks ago, some 63 comments – pro and con – followed the article. I deleted a greater number, unfortunately, because they contained racial epithets, hate or threats of violence.

I’ve lost track of the times that a local has approached me at a sporting event or in a downtown restaurant and asked: "Why don’t you write about all the Mexicans who are committing crimes and ending up in court?" Others inquire:  "Why don’t you do something about the illegal aliens who are living on welfare in the county?"

When I try, patiently, to explain that the vast majority of cases that hit Floyd County courts involve the same locals from the same families who have been in trouble for generations they turn a deaf ear and walk away.

The folks at Social Services tell me that residents of Mexican descent, for the most part, take care of themselves and don’t ask for handouts from the government. Again, it’s the locals who take the food stamps and apply for assistance.

Sadly, the distrust of those who are different or whose skin is a darker shade remains. I see racism in the upcoming election, where our mailbox overflows with candidate literature containing inflammatory language about immigration. And I see, unfortunately, the same old "us vs. them" rhetoric used by those who claim this latest debate was driven by "outsiders" and not "true Floyd Countians."

As a "Floyd Countian," I see positives out of this mess. While this situation has given a wannabe author more attention than he deserves and his books more consideration than they merit, those negatives are far outweighed by the positive of shining the light on intolerance and racism, both passive and active, that is still part of the undercurrent of life here in Floyd County.

If all of this allows us to recognize, confront and deal with those failings in our community and in our treatment of others, then all this upheaval is worth the disruption.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. The simple fact that one wears a Confederate uniform to an event, (ever hear of reenactors?), does not make one a racist. Because one chooses not to believe in Northern mythology about History, (Washington & the cheery tree myth or Lincoln fighting the war to free the slaves)also doesnt make one a Racist. [I doubt this will be placed on this ‘blog’, & I also think a number of ‘bloggers’ are the same person] But, here is what Lincolns Attorney General wrote:[which is not taught in Northern highschools.]
    [Quoting]

    Edward [Bates] returned to Virginia to sell his father’s estate, auction off any family slaves he would not transport to Missouri, and arrange to escort his mother and his older sister Margaret on the long overland journey. “The slaves sold pretty well,” he boasted to Frederick, “a young woman at $537 and a boy child 5 years old at $290!”

    …….Finally with his female relatives ensconced in a carriage and more than twenty slaves following on horseback and on foot, the little party set forth on an exasperating, difficult expedition.

    Source-”Team of Rivals”-Doris Kearns Goodwin, pages 45-46, Copyright – 2005 by Blithedale Productions, Inc., ISBN-13: 978-0-684-82490-1; ISBN-10 0-684-82490-6

    BTW- Mr. Gary Walker is NOT a racist, and his books are based on historical facts!

  2. I’ve taught history for 33 years so I decided to check out Mr. Walker’s book after reading the comments here during the earlier debate. From the point of view of both a historian and a son of the South, I can say without hesitation that Mr. Walker’s perverted view of the history of slavery is fantasy rooted in chicken-fried racism. His conclusions lack documentation or historical reference and his revisionist views are laughable at best.

    There are many reasons why you do not find Mr. Walker’s books in libraries or used as reference materials: they are inaccurate, sloppily written, amateurish attempts at history. For him to attempt to pass these materials off as serious historical research is nothing less than literary fraud.

    To compound his illiterate felonies, he has issued challenges to find errors in his book and then failed to deliver on his promises when those challenges were answered. He said he would not attend the Floyd fair if anyone could find a single error in his book. A Mr. Chris Prokosch found several but Mr. Walker broke his pledge and attended anyway. I see this morning that he has repeated that lie on the discussion forum on the Roanoke Times web site. It does not matter if someone accepts his challenge because he will fail to keep his word when his work is exposed as a fraudulent effort.

    As a native-born Southerner I am offended by Mr. Walker’s attempts to whitewash slavery, and the pun is fully intended. As a historian I find his work below par for even an elementary level history student. He not only is a phony and a fraud, he is also a liar. His actions bring dishonor on many proud traditions on the South. He is a disgrace to the memories of the brave Confederates who died to defend their causes. He distorts history and dishonors their memories.

  3. The veneer is wearing thin. “Tolerance and Diversity” they cried. Not only cried, but demanded.And now,we have the same crowd demanding that a person be banned from the craft show because of a book he wrote.But just like the “Tolerance and Diversity” song and dance, the reason to ban Mr.Walker is also a lie. It’s not the book at all. You see I read somr earlier post when this show started. And what was everyone so fired up about? Mr.Walker dresses in a Confederate uniform and also has Confederate flags hanging up.And we can’t have that,can we? So I ask all you “tolerant” people out there, you know, the ones calling people ‘white trash’,’rednecks,hypocrites (hypoctites? uh HELLO!)and such, if Mr.Walker shows up next year, without that book, will he be welcomed? Or will you fess up to the truth and demand he not be allowed because his Confederate flags? All jokes aside, it really is sad that people who truly believe in ‘tolerance and diversity’can be so hell bent on banning books and censorship. So be careful. Something of yours could be next.Then what? Cry for ‘tolerance and diversity’? Sorry, ya can’t have it both ways.

  4. Because of the sensitivity of this issue, I will not accept comments from anonymous sources or from people who use phony names and/or phony email addresses. Our commenting system verifies email addresses and I’ve had to remove three comments today from posters who have made threats while using fake names or phony emails.

    Racism is too often practiced by cowards who hide thier identifies and shield their faces behind white sheets. That will not happen here.

    Doug

  5. Doug, thank you so much for keeping this important issue in the public arena for debate. It is important for the public to know that many Floyd Countians do not share the myopic vision of the women’s club when it comes to this man and his racist rhetoric. I know from reading this blog, talking to relatives and friends and listening to the conversations in the Blue Ridge Restaurant and the Floyd County Store on Friday nights that a large number of Floyd Countians are very, very concerned about this important issue and want steps taken to keep this man from returning to our area to peddle his lies. Like others who have commented here I am a native Floyd Countian but I do not share the belief that we must include such racism in our annual arts and crafts fair. I urge those who share our concerns to contact members of the women’s club and express their displeasure. It is time to take a stand and show that racism is not acceptable in our county,

  6. It’s your site, and I understand you don’t want to provide a platform for racist rhetoric. And it’s likely that random internet lurkers pen some of this anonymous hate mail.

    However it doesn’t hurt to be aware that we live in a heterogeneous land. Ignorant folk are well represented in the population. This fact makes for a lumpy carpet, if you delete the message readers might get the impression that we all think alike.

    We see the living irony of black families (<5% of the County's Population) bearing the surnames of former slaveholders, including the names of Confederate officers. They endured, they didn't survive because they were stupid, or lazy, or got a free ride.

    Curious- when some of the "native white trash" have more in common with the "niggers" they resent, than the with carpetbaggers and other smiling bastards that make the economic, social and political rules.

    Forget? Hell!

    We have more in common than we imagine. Only by telling our stories, and hearing others do we understand the living history.

    Regards,
    Jeff

  7. It’s a shame that people like that feel the need to try and infect the rest of us with their malignant words and ideas. I have had someone in my past who was a really violent Nazi skinhead;I mean this guy was mean and vicious. watching him fight was like watching a pitbull eat a kitten, it was just so, so worng.

    He was friends with a girl that was my girlfirends (at the time) best friend, so I had to put up with him. I thought that by trying to be this guys friend, by always being that one person who’d have a kind word for him, he’d hopefully change. Eventually, over a period of years, he did bail out on his hateful beliefs, and today he’s a pretty good guy. Now I’m not saying that this guy and his supporters can be swayed by my theory, probably not.But after dealing with these knuckleheads since my punk rock days in the 80’s, I can tell you that they are, if nothing else, narcisstic, and by confronting them, you do nothing but feed their “jones” for attention.

  8. I’ve read with interest many comments on the ‘revisionist history’ of Mr. Walker. While I have not read any of his books, I will state that just because something is contrary to the history taught in schools, it does not mean that it is revisionist. Mr. Walker’s work may be racist, however it is a fact that the true revisionist history is what is taught in schools. The whitewash of history, carried out by the victorious North after the war is the real tragedy. It has been 15 years since “The South Was Right” was published, and almost 10 since “When in the Course of Human Events,” yet we still see people mired in the past mythological stories written to cleanse the crimes of the invading yankees. It is sad when people continue in the dark, and will not even try to see the light. By the way, if you want to know about slavery, the best place to start is with “Myths of American Slavery.” If you haven’t read that, it’s best to be quiet and not let your ignorance show.

  9. Sorry to disagree with you but as a history teacher with more than 30 years in the profession I can say categorically that Mr. Walker’s fantasies are far from fact. His books are racist pap and he is a literary fraud.

    I don’t recall this discussion having anything to do with wearing a Confederate uniform. I do recall it having everything to do with racism and we see far too much of that in Southwestern Virginia. And, yes, I’m a SWVa native and proud of it. I’m not proud, however, of the racism I see posted here and on the Roanoke Times web site.

  10. Looks like the sons of Confederate Veterans held a meeting and told their members to start hitting bulletin boards to support the cause.

  11. You will find the Stars and Bars in our home. My ancestors fought and died fighting for the South. You will not, however, find a copy of Mr. Walker’s racist trash in our home. Yes, I read the book and I wanted to vomit afterwards.

    Robert E. Lee and those who served with him would be ashamed of those who wrap themselves in the battle flag to justify their hate and racism.

    When I read the true history of the South, I am proud to be a Southerner. When I see the racism of Gary Walker and others of his ilk I am ashamed. He, and those who support him, dishonor the memories of those who fought and died supporting their beliefs. They are a disgrace to the legacy of the Confederacy.

  12. OK…i have resisted but now have to butt in. I want to point out that one reason the Confederate flag is offensive to many is that it was found flying from a tree next to lynched black men. It is often seen at Klan gatherings…..need I say more?

    But I am an open minded, tolerant person. So if Gary Walker wants to come to the craft fair next year without the book, “The Truth About Slavery”, I for one, will accept that completely.

    The issue all along has been that particular book. Please, let me strongly add that we are all part of a community. Whether we’re hippies, rednecks, Christians, Jews, southern, northern, black, white or red…..we are all basically the same. We have similar needs, goals, and desires for a decent life.

    I would like to beg everyone who has been involved in this debate to stop name-calling, respect each other as fellow human beings and find compassion.

    To Gary Walker and all of his supporters I say, if I wrote a book and ANY members of my community were offended or upset about its’ contents, I probably would omit it from my goods for sale in that area of the community, or at that event.

    If Gary Walker truly is the good person and non-racist he and his friends say he is, then he should understand that he has hurt certain members of the African-Americans in our community and those of us who dearly do cherish diversity and equality, and from his own sense of compassion and caring, would leave that book at home.

    On the other hand…..I do have to speak for freedom of expression as one of the cornerstones of this nation. It is a delicate subject…Censorship may be much more dangerous than someone selling offensive ideas.

    If there is any merit to any writing, it will prevail….if a writing is ignorant and wrong and stupid, it will fall quickly to the wayside. If we value this freedom and want it to continue, we may have to simply step aside and let nature take it’s course. I personally have mixed feelings about this….and am trying to figure it out.

    This whole mess has been very upsetting and saddens me. I do come from a culture that desires acceptance and harmony…and love for our neighbors and fellow man. I still continue to pray for that.

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