CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Civil War festival and re-enactment in Cabell County won approval for $1,715 of matching funds from the state Sesquicentennial Commission Wednesday -- after dropping a request for funding for a controversial pro-Confederate speaker.
Organizers of the Guyandotte Civil War Days, scheduled for Nov. 1-6 near Huntington, had originally submitted a grant request in May, but the commission tabled the application over concerns about the scheduled keynote speaker, H.K. Edgerton.
Edgerton, who lives in North Carolina, is a prominent pro-Confederate author and speaker who contends that large numbers of slaves "went to war with their masters" to fight against the Union.
Edgerton, who is black, also contends that slavery was not a significant issue leading up to the Civil War, and has defended the use of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the South, including leading a "March Across Dixie" in 2002-03, carrying the flag.
In May, commissioners raised concerns that state funding of the event would be seen as an implicit endorsement of Edgerton, since events that receive commission grants are required to feature the state sesquicentennial logo in advertising and promotional materials.
As commission member Victor Thacker, a dean at Davis & Elkins College, noted at the time, "The last thing we need to do as historians is give more bad history to our students."
In its revised application, to cover half of the $3,430 budget for the 2011 Guyandotte Civil War Days, the listed speakers include Stan Clardy, presenting his one-man play, "Soldiers in Gray, A Musical Journey," and Al Stone, who portrays Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Education and Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin, who serves as commission chairwoman, said there is no reference to Edgerton in the revised grant request.
"That speaker is no longer part of the application," she said.
She said the commission could not prevent Edgerton from appearing at the event, if his appearance was privately funded. The application gave no indication that Edgerton, who was a speaker at the 2010 Guyandotte Civil War Days, will attend in any capacity.
"Certainly, if they want to have that person, it's fine," Goodwin said. "As I recall, you didn't want commission funds to go for that."
With Wednesday's grant, the commission has approved a total of $35,715 in state funds for 10 Civil War festivals and re-enactments around the state.
Earlier this year, four of the eight original citizen members of the commission resigned, raising concerns that the commission is emphasizing tourist-friendly Civil War festivals and re-enactments over educational and academic programs.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.