Trouble is returning to Floyd’s annual Arts and Crafts Festival and it is trouble the local Women’s Club could have avoided.
At issue is Wytheville native Gary C. Walker, a self-proclaimed Civil War historian and self-published author of books that defend slavery. Walker’s presence at the weekend event at Floyd County High School for the past two years sparked protests from local citizens and a debate between letter writers to The Floyd Press.
A friend emailed me excerpts from one of Walker’s books, The Truth About Slavery, and it is disgusting reading — an apologist’s attempt to rewrite history to support the despicable practice of slavery.
MASTER-SLAVE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
What type of relationship was it? There were many variations and shades of those variations, but as a general rule, it developed into a parent-child relationship. The family relationship is an economic institution, which is relatively stable, well-defined, and has served all societies since recorded history. The family structure introduced from Europe in the 1600’s had changed little by the 1800’s and is still common and viable in the 1900’s.
Generally speaking the parent is responsible for the supervision and care of the children. The children must work under the rules the parents establish. The relationship is not easily terminated: the children just can’t quit or run away; the parents can’t fire the children or simply quit caring for them. The slaves were grafted into the master’s family. There were many signs of this “grafting.” There are numerous examples of true love, acts of courtesy, and heroism between the master’s family and the slave family. Terms of endearment were commonly used: “Mammy, Uncle Joe. My boy (as in son), (later just) boy.”
The master or the mistress viewed themselves as the “good parent.” They provided for the physical needs of their slave “children.”
On his web site, Walker claims to be a "highly acclaimed Civil War author" although I can’t find a single reference there to who, besides Walker, is issuing any such acclaim.
In Walker’s self-written biography, he says:
Gary had a wide variety of jobs after graduating college. He was a manager, a sales representative, and a truck driver. He worked in electronic communications, in insurance, in energy conservation, and in retail sales and service among other fields. With the great success of The War in Southwest Virginia 1861-65, Gary knew he had found his niche.
The book propelled him from obscurity. From 1985 until the present, one can often find Gary dressed in a Confederate uniform, speaking to audiences, granting interviews to radio and television and newspapers, at Civil War re-enactments, and at craft festivals autographing his books.
A search of "Gary C. Walker" on Google turns up 270 hits, but less than half link back to the author from Wytheville. Most refer to others who share the same name. This is being "propelled from obscurity?" Google "Colleen Redman," a Floyd poet and writer, and you get more hits. Google local blogger and author Fred First and you get 14,900 hits. Floyd-based blues musician Scott Perry gets 12,300 hits. Now that’s being "popelled from obscurity."
As a native Southerner and a Virginian, I’ve always had mixed emotions about the Civil War. The issue of states’ rights is still being fought today but slavery remains, as it should, a black eye on the history of this country Attempting to justify the practice by any means is, in my opinion, racism.
As I understand it, Walker told the Women’s Club of Floyd that he would understand if they did not invite him back this year but the club, for reasons that escape the bounds of rational explanation, decided to bring him back. That has prompted others in the county to consider more widespread forms of protest this year. Floyd architech Shannon Green contacted the Woman’s Club after she was told that Walker’s books are used as reference material by history professors at Virginia Tech. She quickly discovered the claim was not true and that no professors at Tech are using Walker’s books.
At a time when Floyd is trying to establish itself as a must-visit locale, being identified as a haven for those who defend slavery is the last thing any of us needs.