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Harpers Ferry park store unaffected by flag directive

Journal photo by Ron Agnir Harpers Ferry gift shops hold some Confederate flag merchandise.
Journal photo by Ron Agnir
Harpers Ferry gift shops hold some Confederate flag merchandise.

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — An order from the director of the National Park Service to remove Confederate flag sale items from all national parks’ book stores and gift shops will have “virtually no impact at all” on the book store at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, according to Dennis Frye, the park’s chief historian and liaison to the Harpers Ferry Historical Association, which operates the book store in the park.

“We don’t sell individual Confederate flags nor any iterations of the flag,” Frye said Thursday in a telephone interview. “We surveyed the book store this morning immediately after getting the order and we feel very comfortable that the sales items meet the director’s directive.”

In the news release announcing the removal of Confederate flags from national park stores, NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said the murders of nine church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, galvanized a national discussion that includes symbols and relics from America’s past, such as the Confederate Battle Flag.

 

“All sales items in parks are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park. Any standalone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores,” Jarvis said in the news release.

As the discussion progressed, one of the NPS’ largest cooperating associations, Eastern National, voluntarily began to remove any items depicting the Confederate flag from the park stores it manages, Jarvis said in the news release.

Eastern National is a 501(c)3 cooperating association, supporting the interpretive, educational and scientific programs and services of the National Park Service and its other public trust partners, according to the Eastern National website. Eastern National accomplishes this by operating museums and book stores, and donating the proceeds from the sales to support the interpretive and educational programs of the partners it serves, its website states. It serves more than 150 national park sites and other public trusts across 34 states and two U.S. territories.

“I’ve asked other cooperating associations, partners and concession providers to withdraw from sale items that solely depict a Confederate flag,” Jarvis said in the release.

Harpers Ferry NHP and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association have a scope of sales statement governing what is sold in the book store, officials said.

“The book store specializes in high-quality, high-end educational, literary and art merchandise,” Frye said. “Replicas of standalone Confederate flags never fit into our sales plan. We stopped selling Confederate flags years ago. We are in compliance with the director’s order without making changes.”

He added that the Confederate flag is on display at Harpers Ferry NHP in a museum environment or on exhibits to indicate troop positions during battle. Also, Civil War living history enactors, such as Confederate soldiers and artillery, are permitted to use the Confederate flag in connection with re-enactments, Frye said.

“The Confederate flag is on book covers or booklets, but always in association with the U.S. flag,” he said.

The Harpers Ferry Historical Association is an independent association that is strictly dedicated to supporting Harpers Ferry NHP, which gives the park a lot of control over sales at the book store operated by the association, Frye said.

A call to the superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield was not returned Thursday.

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.

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