CHARLESTON, S.C. —The memory of the Civil War collided with modern-day civil rights Monday as protesters targeted a "Secession Ball," commemorating South Carolina's decision exactly 150 years ago to secede from the United States of America.
As black and white protesters gathered in the twilight with electric candles and signs, a predominantly white group of men in tuxedos and women in long-flowing dresses and gloves stopped to watch and take pictures.
NAACP leaders said it made no sense to hold a gala to honor men who committed treason against their own nation for the sake of a system that kept black men and women in bondage as slaves. They compared Confederate leaders to terrorists and Nazi soldiers.
"The Germans had a heritage too. Why does South Carolina and America think this is the right thing to do?" said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But organizers of the ball said it had nothing to do with celebrating slavery. Instead, the $100-a-person private event was a fundraiser to honor the Southern men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their homes and their vision of states' rights.
"We honor our ancestors for their bravery and tenacity protecting their homes from invasion," said Michael Givens, Commander in Chief for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group's central purpose is to preserve the history and legacy of the South's "citizen-soldiers."