That flag is just history

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

By Therbia U. Parker Sr.

During the last few months, there has been a lot of news coverage about the Confederate flag. The controversy was re-ignited after the mass shooting on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine black people were killed.

Recently some states and cities have removed the Confederate flag from public properties. There are even some who want all Confederate monuments removed from public property.

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Then, on Oct. 14, the Suffolk News-Herald published the story “Man won’t return SCV plates.”

“My ancestors fought and died for that flag,” Kevin Collier, a member of the Stonewall Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said in the story. “I haven’t turned in my plates. I don’t plan on turning in my plates. I’ll go to jail before I turn them in.”

I admire Mr. Collier for his stand on his ancestral history and America’s history. I have seen the flag flown from the rear of pickup trucks, on front porches, from flagpoles in yards and on decals on vehicles. There is a Confederate flag on the house next to my church. All my life, I have seen the Confederate flag flying.

I understand there are some who consider the Confederate flag a symbol of their heritage, not hate.

I was born in 1949 in Nansemond County. In 1955, when I was 6, Emmitt Till was killed, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Jim Crow laws were being challenged across America — and I started first grade at Nansemond County Training School, a school for black children.

In the fall of 1965, I witnessed a Ku Klux Klan rally where the Suffolk Cotton Gin now stands on Holland Road. There were Klansmen standing by the highway — some in hood and robe, some with hoods removed — and the Virginia State Police looked on as the Klansmen hit on our car as we slowly drove by. Confederate flags were by their sides.

I grew up viewing the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy. There are still white people who view the Confederate flag that way, but I feel the vast majority of white people see the flag as a symbol of heritage.

We can’t change history, but we all must adjust our attitudes for the betterment of all mankind.

For the past 40 years, I have collected historical items related to the black experience. I have artifacts related to chattel slavery, Jim Crow and President Barack Obama. I even have a Confederate flag in my collection. How could I exhibit and lecture on black history or America’s history and leave out the Confederate flag?

When my children were growing up, if we encountered the Confederate flag or a Confederate monument, I would use those moments to teach a history lesson.

There is a Jim Crow relic that stands in front of a house on Holland Road that I have seen all my life. It stands about three feet tall, right arm extended with a ring to hold a lantern, hat tilted back, colorful clothes, all exposed skin jet black, eyes lily white, lips ruby red and a big grin on his face. I call him “Little Black Sambo on 58 West.”

I have the same hitching post in my collection. Again I use the hitching post to teach history.

There are shameful times in America’s history. There are some things we all wish had never happened. But they did.

I no longer view the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy; I will not allow a flag to have that much control over me, nor will I let Little Black Sambo on 58 West define who I am.

Mr. Collier, I respect you for standing up for your heritage, and not hate.

Therbia U. Parker Sr. of has an extensive collection of items related to slavery, racism and Jim Crow. He lives in Holland. Email him at