Black neighbors to picket woman's Confederate flag

Black neighbors to picket woman's Confederate flag

Published October 18, 2010

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Annie Chambers Caddell, whose ancestors fought in the Civil War, insists the Confederate flag flying over her home is an important reminder of her heritage. But for her neigbors in this tree-shrouded, historically black neighborhood, it's an unpleasant reminder of a by-gone era they'd rather not see every time they pass by her house.

Caddell, who is white, moved into the Brownsville neighborhood in June and began flying the flag about a month later. Since then, more than 200 residents signed a protest petition, and now neighbors plan to march Saturday along the street in front of Caddell's house.

"My first reaction was they are going to do what they think they need to do," said Caddell, 50. "My second reaction was I'm not going to be here."

Caddell plans to be on nearby James Island on Saturday for the wedding of a friend who is black. She tearfully told the town council earlier this week that she is not racist.

She also flies the American flag from her modest brick house, and her yard has various ornaments including a gnome, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, and a sign on her fence reading, "Confederate Boulevard."

"That flag means a lot more to me than anything I can describe to you," Caddell said. "It's my heritage and it's my right. I'm not trying to slam anybody, and I wish I wouldn't be slammed either."

James Patterson, a 43-year-old crane operator who lives in a mobile home next door, said displaying the flag is insensitive.

"I know she has a legal right to do that on her property. But just because it's legally right, doesn't make it morally right," said Patterson, who is black. "You can put up what you want, but if this was a Jewish community and someone moved in and started flying swastika flags, there would be a lot of hell raised about that as well."

Violet Saylor, a 74-year-old retired social worker who lives about three blocks away, said the flag brings back to her memories of Jim Crow in the neighborhood she has lived all her life.

"She shouldn't fly that flag because it represents slavery and the Ku Klux Klan that used to ride through the town and we used to have to turn our lights off and hide behind the shades," said Saylor.

The Town of Summerville has said that while Caddell has the right to fly the flag, neighbors also have the right to march.

It's not South Carolina's first controversy over the flag of the Confederacy, which began fighting its independence in 1861 at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, about 20 miles away.

After years of debate, South Carolina lawmakers voted in 2000 to move the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome to a monument in front of the building. The flag had been on the dome since the Civil War centennial in the 1960s.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has imposed a tourism boycott for the past decade as it seeks to have the flag removed from the grounds altogether.

Dexter Mack, 31, the head of the Brownsville neighborhood civic association, lives a street away from Caddell on a block where his family has lived for more than a century. He said he's not sure how many people may turn out Saturday.

"She has the right to fly the flag but when it offends people, we want her understand and try to come to some kind of agreement where she can take the flag down," said Mack, who is black.

But Caddell said that's not something she wants to do.

"Yes, I could take it down, but what message does that send?" she asked. "If you don't stand for something, you'll never be anything."

Written by <P class="ap-story-p">By BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press Writer</P>

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