The fact thereâ€™s a black member in the Lincoln County Robert E. Lee Society may come as a surprise to some.
For Rudolph Young, however, learning about the Civil War has little to do with race and everything to do with heritage and history.
â€œIf you have no history, you have no past. If you have no past, you have no identity. Period. Thatâ€™s it,â€ Young said.
Young didnâ€™t have this opinion as a child. He wasnâ€™t the sort to pore over history books after school. Instead, he became interested in it as a young man in the military.
A moment that stands out in Youngâ€™s mind is when he learned a friend of his, who was also black, had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
â€œThat peeked my interest,â€ he said.
Now, 61, Young has spent the past 20 years as a history buff, even writing four books on various subjects.
While he makes a living as a security guard, thereâ€™s no question that history is his passion. Heâ€™s a member of the Trans-Catawba African American Genealogical and Historical Association, the American Legion and the Robert E. Lee Society.
Heâ€™s particularly interested in the Civil War, a very complicated time in Americaâ€™s history.
On one hand, â€œpeople believe that the North came into the war to free slaves,â€ Young says. â€œThat is absolutely not true.â€
On the other hand, â€œyou always hear that the Civil War was not about slavery, especially from southerners. That is an oversimplification.â€
When it comes to the Confederate flag, however, Young feels a simple thing has been made complicated.
â€œThis flag â€” it was elevated to a position it doesnâ€™t deserve,â€ Young said.
To him, the flag is â€œnothing more than a bannerâ€ used during battle.
And while the flag has been used as a symbol of racism by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Young notes the American flag also has a history. It flew far more years than the Confederate flag, flapping in the wind on many a slave ship.
â€œWhich flag represents slavery and oppression?â€ Young asked. â€œCertainly not the Confederate battle flag.â€
As for slaves who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, Young believes they were patriots. For them, the South was home.
He equates it to himself fighting in the Vietnam War despite the fact he lived in a segregated society.
â€œDid I go to maintain the segregation system?â€ he asked.
Heâ€™s also interested in the history of black people fighting on the Union side during the Civil War.
Really, he embraces any history from that time â€” especially things he never learned in school.
â€œBlack peopleâ€™s role in history in general wasnâ€™t really taught,â€ Young said.
Things have changed since his childhood, but he still believes most people are ignorant when it comes to history.
â€œThe people who write history do not seem to think to include all the communities,â€ Young said.
When it comes to the importance of history, he likes to quote the motto of TAAGHA â€“ â€œItâ€™s our right to go into the past and get what we need to go to the future.â€
by Sarah Grano