|Malchick Films and Soundboy America Pictures presents
a Skip Pulley Documentary:
Freedom vs. Liberty: Life in the Old North State
The entire project centers around my personal experiences here, the history of
my family and my curiosity about the battle flag that some confederates including
North Carolinians fought under during the Civil War. This was different from the
Confederate National Flag, which most people do not find offensive in the least.
(Arkansans & Texans usually fought under their State Flag) We explore this flag
as a historic symbol, but also as a contemporary one. The history of the flag is
relatively simple, Confederate troops had difficulty distinguishing themselves from
the enemy, often firing on their own troops. An idea was put forward to have a
specific flag for engagement purposes, later named the St. Andrews Cross.
(The Union troops at Shiloh described it as gaudy and repulsive,
which may have been the original intent)
My family history is eclectic. Some of my ancestors were Confederates, some were
slaves and some were Native Americans from local tribes. I have lived here since
the mid-seventies and started my career here in the nineties, but it never
occurred to me to understand this place. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship
with this State, so I thought I should try to understand what it's all about.
This year we travelled from one end of this State to the other. We drove hundreds
of miles and talked to more people than I can remember. We shared stories,
asked questions, learned history and philosophy, broke old stereotypes and made
new friends. But the meaning of Freedom is elusive and complex. The purpose of
Liberty may be far beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
For seven months, I searched for both.
|I have ancestors who fought for the confederacy.
They were originally French and settled in Eastern NC.
When William T. Sherman's Union army
entered the state, they abandoned the Fleur de lis
and picked up the St. Andrews cross. (shown left)
After the war, some of the returning soldiers fathered
children with their former female slaves.
Most former male slaves stayed on the plantation as
sharecroppers or tenant farmers.
|I consider myself a Negro, (or person of color) - first and foremost.
Several members of my family were involved
with the struggle for civil rights.
Much of the national attention on the plight of the
American Negro originated in this state.
The feelings of pride or polarization that are felt even today
can be traced to the sacrifices made by a few students
who decided that they finally had enough.
|I found there was more than meets the eye.
1) Loyalty to the Crown - in the late 18th century, the area around Charlotte, NC was
populated mostly by people who still considered themselves British subjects. What
happened to change their minds? What role did slavery and the agrarian culture play
during the revolution?
2) States Rights - Is this argument used by those that wish to absolve themselves (or
their ancestors) from the sin of holding another in human bondage? If it is a
constitutional argument, why is there is nothing in the constitution that says the states
have "rights"? There is only an article about how they should govern themselves. But
even that is a moot point because the only "right" certain states wanted was to keep
and maintain slavery. North Carolina was one of those states.
At the constitutional congress, NC delegates voted to keep slavery as part of their
culture. Men with nobler minds had an opportunity to prevail, but they did not.
3) Fighting for freedom - Is there a deeper socio-economic factor to the history of
this state? When I was younger, I only saw rebel symbolism displayed by those who
were known as the lower class. In almost all other places it was regarded as history.
I want to explore the reasons why poor southern whites were dominated and oppressed
by the planter class elite. They were willing to fight and die for a cause from a
theoretical nation, long before any "invasion". Are these also primarily the same people
who defend the flag symbolism today as "heritage"? The same social class of people
got sent into a meat-grinder of a war because aristocratic planters wanted to maintain a
stagnant way of life. Slaves were considered as property.
They believed the Government meant to take this property away.
If that is the constitutional argument, does it take precedent over moral obligation?
4) Post Reconstruction - After the civil war, former slaves struggled to find an identity
and fought for basic survival. They carved out a culture from practically nothing and lay
the foundation for heroes of future generations. In the midst of Jim crow segregation
they found a cultural identity.
5) Civil Rights - North Carolina saw dramatic increases in population and industry
between the first and second world war. Along with urban sprawl came cultural conflict.
The battle flag as a contemporary symbol was not an issue here for much of the 20th
century. It was shown in historic context and used to commemorate civil war
anniversaries. It was not until the "Dixiecrat's" (a segment of the democratic party)
adopted the symbol and used it for much of their rhetoric and campaigning. They
included Strom Thurman and NC native Jesse Helms. The symbol then re-emerged as
a symbol of defiance during the civil rights era, aimed at the Federal Government.
These are issues that form the basis of the film, but this is more than one film makers
journey. Any understanding of this film and accompanying book
may be a huge step toward reconciliation and possibly forming a consensus about who
we are. This is a very non-indigenous state. Most of my friends are from the North or
the Midwest. I discovered that I could not solidify my own mentality until I understood
those around me, and those who came before. If you feel that going out of your way to
see life through someone else's eyes is too much to ask of someone,
then you probably need to question your system of beliefs.
This is a great country (technically a corporation), but it has never been a great nation.
If I can fully understand the place I have chosen to live, then I may help others
do the same. Then we can move toward being great.
|Two of my life-long heroes, John Coltrane and Theloneus Monk were both born here
in North Carolina. I cant help but wonder how their legacy and the future of jazz would
have developed if they had not left the state at an early age. When I was young,
all I could think about was leaving, but I had no idea why.
I wonder what they were thinking, as they were growing up in the Jim Crow South.
|Although I have native american ancestry on both
about them. This is probably the norm for most people
with that type of heritage.
I do know that the tribes that fought back against
imperial colonization and expansion were wiped out -
in an holocaust that actually happened.
Those who did not fight were forced into poverty,
starvation and systematic genocide.
|To view the 2 Minute video trailer for the film,