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Ceremony provides different look at war

A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans says blacks are in denial about their Civil War heritage.

[Times photos: Toni Sandys]
Lenox Cooke, left, an aide to Hillsborough County Commissioner Tom Scott, discusses with Marion Lambert their different beliefs about the Civil War.

By WAYNE WASHINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


TAMPA -- South Carolinians marched and protested and boycotted and exerted so much political pressure the Confederate flag flapping above the statehouse there is about to be pulled down.

Georgians are planning new ways to change the state flag, which merged with the Confederate flag during the 1960s.

photo
Mike Bethune of Thonotosassa, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, stands guard Wednesday at the Confederate monument outside the Hillsborough County courthouse.
Florida? Confederate Memorial Day in Tampa was celebrated Wednesday the way it usually is: with proclamations -- including one signed by each member of the Hillsborough County Commission -- and an honor guard of Civil War re-enactors marching around a Confederate monument at the county courthouse.

Flowers surrounded the monument and a lone re-enactor, dressed in gray Civil War battle gear, marched slowly around the monument. Others handed out pamphlets, "In Thoughtful Remembrance," detailing the heroic deeds of the Confederate soldier whose "legacy should be a model for us all today."

People filing in and out of the courthouse stopped to read the myriad excerpts from people like Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas posted on two large quoteboards. Both men are quoted acknowledging that blacks fought for the Confederacy, too.

That's an important point for Marion Lambert, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Blacks, Lambert said, are in denial about their true heritage. That's why they don't join groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans in large numbers, and that's why they are turned off by the Confederate flag.

"If one denies his Southern history, what they're doing is denying their heritage," Lambert said. "They're denying their family."

Matthew Little, a black Tampa resident, stopped Wednesday to read about blacks and the Confederacy. One of the re-enactors handed Lambert a pamphlet.

Little looked it over.

"It looks like bull," Little said. "I'm not really buying it."

Lambert said what's happening in South Carolina and Georgia is a threat to freedom of speech.

"People who are white are being put into a corner, being told they can't embrace or celebrate their heritage," he said.

Actually, Hillsborough County is doing its best to help Lambert celebrate that heritage.

The monument, given to the community in 1911 by the Tampa chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, sits on county property. At the time, Hillsborough County included what is now Pinellas County and the southwest corner of Polk County. County commissioners decided a few years ago to protect its marble surface and to make sure any vandalism is repaired.

The monument was vandalized seven or eight months ago, said Don Harwig, who oversees facilities management for the county. The damage, a broken rifle and a broken arm, could cost about $1,000 to repair, said Harwig.

County taxpayers, whether they embrace the Confederacy or not, will pick up the tab.

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