WRAL Investigates

Sons of Confederate Veterans tells its story

Posted March 2, 2020 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2020 6:33 p.m. EST

— Labeled by some as a group of white supremacists and racists, the Sons of Confederate veterans says it is neither.

"Not at all. We don’t believe in that," spokesman Frank Powell said when asked about the white supremacist allegations. "Our organization is open to all male descendants of Confederate soldiers and sailors who served honorably."

There are more than 3,000 SCV members in North Carolina among 90 “camps” across the state.

Powell said the nonprofit is about preserving the stories of Confederate soldiers, who he said fought to defend the South’s freedom.

“Confederate soldiers were not fighting for white supremacy. They weren’t fighting to preserve slavery,” he said. “Anybody who attributes anything else to it, that’s just a fake narrative.”

The SCV has been in the spotlight in North Carolina in recent months after negotiating with the UNC Board of Governors to take control of the "Silent Sam" statue, which had stood on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus for more than a century before protesters pulled it down in August 2018. A judge later overturned that deal, and the group must now return the statue, as well as $2.5 million that had been put in trust for its preservation.

Two local towns also canceled holiday parades that the SCV was going to march in after hearing rumblings opposition groups would show up, too.

WRAL Investigates sent multiple emails to camp leaders across central North Carolina, asking to attend and film a monthly meeting. The requests were denied and forwarded to Powell to speak on the group’s behalf.

WRAL Investigates was at a restaurant in Wendell the night it hosted a monthly meeting of SCV members. During dinner, the door to their private room stayed open. Once the meeting started, the doors shut. However, from the outside of the restaurant, what appeared to be a presentation given to SCV members could be seen. Confederate-era flags also appeared to stand in the corners of the room.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across the country, doesn't label the SCV as a hate group. Senior Research Analyst Howard Graves said the group doesn’t qualify because it doesn’t attack or target people based on race. In the past, the SPLC raised concerns about some members of the SCV, who had connections to groups the SPLC viewed as extremists.

Nearly two decades ago, media reports show the SCV was at a crossroads when a group of members who wanted to become more politically active tried to take over. However, that effort failed.

“We’re non-political,” Powell said. “We do not discuss politics at our meetings, and we’re forbidden from participating in politics.”

The SCV website says extremists or prospective members with links to hate groups should not be allowed to join.

When asked about the continued use of the Confederate battle flag, Powell said, "We hang to it because it’s our duty."

The Confederate flag has a bad reputation because of others, he added,

"These hate groups misused our flag and even hijacked it. When we see a group of nuts calling themselves the Klan or whatever marching down the street with our flag – and it is our flag – we’re probably more upset than the black community," he said.

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