June 24th , 2013 9:31 am Leave a comment

Historical societies at odds over memory, celebration of region’s heritage

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Two local historical preservation societies agree maintaining Elizabethton’s and Carter County’s landmarks and heritage is important.

Photo by Brandon HicksThe Confederate flag flies over the grave of Confederate Lt. Robert J. Tipton at Green Hill Cemetery in Elizabethton. Both the Confederate flag and the Betsy Ross American flag were placed in the cemetery by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Lt. Robert J. Tipton Camp 2083.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
The Confederate flag flies over the grave of Confederate Lt. Robert J. Tipton at Green Hill Cemetery in Elizabethton. Both the Confederate flag and the Betsy Ross American flag were placed in the cemetery by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Lt. Robert J. Tipton Camp 2083.

With that idea, however, their similarities end.

The Watauga Historical Association and the Robert J. Tipton Camp No. 2083 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have taken it upon themselves to tend to the grounds and the maintenance of the Green Hill Cemetery located off of Mill Street in central Elizabethton.

The WHA mission statement says its primary focus is to “promote preservation of all matters related to the history and culture of the Watauga Valley and East Tennessee.”

The SCV’s mission statement, on the other hand, focuses more specifically on “preserving the history and legacy of Confederate heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern cause.” To further that goal, the SCV has been placing Confederate memorial items inside Green Hill Cemetery, against the wishes
of WHA President Dawn Peters and her colleagues.

“We did not want a Confederate flag in Green Hill Cemetery for several reasons,” Peters said. “One being that it is considered a hate symbol, (and) one being that there are black people buried at that cemetery.”

The debate over whether the Confederate flag is meant as a symbol of Southern heritage or a symbol of racial prejudice has gone on at the national level for decades. According to the Anti-Defamation League, one of the country’s foremost civil advocacy groups, the flag is defined as a “General Racist Symbol” to “represent white domination of African-Americans.”

But according to Tipton Camp Commander Bill Hicks, that interpretation is the result of “a stigma coming from people who have no understanding of true history.”

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