Student who saluted Confederate statue says he would die to defend slavery

‘Slaves were extremely valued and treated like family’

You'll recognize Allen Armentrout as the kid who put on his Confederate Army uniform, picked up his AR-15, and went to salute a statue of Robert E Lee in Charlottesville. He said he wanted to honor "the greatest American who ever lived."

Since then, he's been kicked out of college and become the face of young men who have long for the good old days of the slave-owning South.

We caught up with Allen, who told us about his outmoded views on being a southern gentleman, how he loves the Confederacy, and how he would die to defend slavery – in his words, it was "over-dramatized" (spoiler: he thinks "slaves were extremely valued, treated well and in some cases, treated like family").

Hey Allen, what's new since you got kicked out of college – what are people saying about your statue stunt?

The only thing I see from the left is hate. They've told me my mentions of God are unfounded. That when I say Jesus loves everybody, they say “you’re just a stupid Christian.” I’ve been attacked religiously too. I have received only one message out of hundreds that says “I don’t agree with your point of view but I respect the fact that you’re open minded and are polite.” Everything else has been complete hate. You can see in those videos where the real hate lies.

You've said you're a southern gentleman – what does that mean?

A southern gentleman puts others before himself. We are very hospitable. When we see someone in need, we try to do everything we can to help. We care about other people. I think the South understands poverty so we’re willing to sacrifice a little bit so we can help someone else along. A southern gentleman has a belief in God and has a faith-based system in the Bible or some sort of religious sect. That’s a major player in the southern gentleman – being Christlike. A southern gentleman truly cares about his history and his heritage and has a belief system that he’s willing to stand for and die for.

Does a southern gentleman hold open doors for people?

Yes, it’s called chivalry. Southern gentlemen are very chivalrous. Unfortunately sexism has somewhat killed chivalry.

Sexism?

I’m saying women’s independence has somewhat killed chivalry. Southern gentlemen want to hold doors open for women out of respect and kindness and that type of thing. A lot of women have rejected that and shamed that, saying it’s wrong. In turn, they’ll open the door themselves and slam it into our face. I hope you understand that I have no problem with a woman being independent at all. But a southern gentleman respects womanhood. That’s one thing that we hold very dear, respecting womanhood. Very dear. Respecting our mothers, our fellow women, our wives, our daughters. All that stuff.

Do you pay for dates?

Yes, absolutely. I have a girlfriend and I pay just about every time! She’s bought my dinner I think one time. I go up and see her every night after work, I bought her dinner every night. I think she got me dinner one night when my card wasn’t working. But I love my girlfriend and I want to marry her one day and do everything I can to make her happy.

What does she make of what you did?

She views me as her hero. As her southern soldier, or something like that. She believes what I’m doing is right. She supports me 100 percent in all my endeavors, and that’s what a good wife or girlfriend should do.

When you get married, will you both be working?

I don’t mean this in any kind of sexist way – I hope you know that – this is just honest. I would allow my wife to do whatever she wants to do to make her happy. But from a biblical perspective – this is biblical – I believe what the Bible says is truth, 100 percent. The Bible says that women are the keepers of the house. In no way do I mean that to be sexist. If a woman wants to work, you go right ahead. I have no problem with that. I don’t want you to think that being a southern gentleman means you’re a sexist. I hope you distinguish that in your paper.

But I believe it’s healthy for a woman to nurture her children and raise the children when the husband’s not there, when he’s working. The Bible says the husband should be the provider and the breadwinner. And I hope you can understand that is in no way a sexist opinion. My wife is probably going to work before she has children. She’s going to have a part-time job or whatever she wants before children. I do believe that a woman should stay with the kids. I don’t believe that day cares are healthy.

I think women going into the workplace when they have children destroys the family unit. But to each his own. Every person has their own way to do it. And I have the right to believe what I want to believe, and I have the right to find a woman who believes the same way I do. And we have the right to raise our children in the way we see fit and the ways we believe in. I in no way judge other people. If a woman wants to be independent and wants to marry anybody, go ahead. That’s just the way I was raised.

So why did the Civil War start?

First, it shouldn’t be called the Civil War.

What do you call it?

Civil War is when two groups of people fight for one type of government in one country. And we were not part of the United States – we seceded, we were the Confederate States of America and we were fighting for independence. It should be called the "War for Southern Independence." It’s the same way our Founding Fathers fought for freedom from the British.

So what do you think it was about?

My ancestors fought for freedom and independence from a tyrannical, federal government that was usurping power without the consent of the governed by overtaxing what was not given to them. The South seceded legally from the United States of America and were invaded. And the South responded in defense of their homes and their families and their country. And that’s all it boils down to, that’s all it was.

It’s widely accepted that slavery was the reason the South went to war. How do you think that fits into that?

Slavery was a political issue debated by both the North and the South. But it was not a key element. Troops fight for the chance to defend their country and their home. They don’t directly go out and say we’re fighting for this or that. The South wasn’t fighting for slavery. Did you know that black people fought in the Confederate army?

But they were slaves.

No, they had freemen and slaves in their army.

So there were slaves in the Confederate Army.

There were, yes. There were also some freemen too. You have to understand that if I went to war and I owned a slave, I would ask that slave: “Would you like to come with me to fight?” There’s a picture online of a black gentleman and his master, around my age, and they went off to fight in the war together. Even though he was a slave, that was still his country. Black slaves – and you have to understand there were thousands and thousands of white slaves in America, not just black folks. In fact an Irish slave was devalued more than a black one.

I don’t think that’s true.

Yes sir. You should look up Irish slavery in America. It’s something that’s never talked about. In fact, people in the North would take a black man and an Irish woman and force them to have that intercourse and then sell the children and call them mulattos. You should look into that.

Tell me about how slaves fought for “their country"?

A slave in the South or the North still had loyalties to his country. If you were a slave in America – America or the South didn’t enslave you, you have to understand that’s just how events in life turned out for you. But you would still have loyalties to your home state.

But if you were a slave, your home state wasn’t in America. It was most likely wherever you were taken from in West Africa.

OK. Well, I mean, you shouldn’t be bitter at a country that uses that, you should be bitter maybe at the other African tribes that enslaved you. How about that? And it’s not like Americans went overseas and conquered people and took them from their homes and families.

Yeah they did, that was the transatlantic slave trade.

They’d come into Cuba, and all that?

Yeah, that was the slave trade –

Well, OK just across the board, I’ll tell it like this. I don’t believe that slavery was ever right. But I believe that it was available and businesses used it to their advantage. So that’s just how I look at it. I don’t think we should go back to those days, I’m very happy with the capitalistic free world. But we need to reflect on the point that the war wasn’t fought over that principle.

If the Confederacy had won and kept slavery, would you support it?

I would not personally own slaves, but I would support my country. Absolutely. America does things today that I don’t agree with, like abortion. But America supports abortion. And I would give my life for America today and I don’t believe in that institution. So yes, if slavery existed today I would still fight and die for my country.

Would you have owned slaves?

Uh, not really. I don’t believe a Christian man should own another person. I probably would have had regular labor to support myself. I probably would have got involved in the military. If I was in the position in 1861, I would have fought. I would have answered the Southern Confederacy’s call for help to defend against an invading force.

What about in the South in 1860 – when owning a slave was still legal. Would you have done it then?

I wouldn’t have owned slaves, period. I don’t agree with the institution. The only thing I agree with is indentured servitude. I believe that if you don’t have training and can’t afford to keep yourself afloat, then you might need to sign yourself over to someone for a brief amount of time so you can learn a trade and after four or five years you can support yourself and a family. That’s how many people came over to this country. They would trade three years of work for a ride over here. That’s not slavery, that’s just selling your services. That’s the only thing I agree with.

So you think slavery was over-exaggerated?

I believe that slavery was over-dramatized. I believe that people don’t really understand what slavery really was. They think black people – slaves – were hung and lynched and murdered and treated like trash, and that’s not the case. Slaves were extremely valued, treated well and in some cases, treated like family. They were clothed, fed and in some cases, paid. Some gave their slaves money every month so they could spend it or save it so they could buy their freedom one day. So books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin were complete propaganda by the north, total bull. I’m sorry, that’s a very informal word!

Your view of slavery isn’t the one that is accepted and understood.

When you think slavery, the first thing you think of is a line of people in a chain gang being whipped like Egyptians did to the Israelites. But that’s not even close to what it was.

Had the honor and privilege to meet the Reverend John Weaver. What an amazing day!

A post shared by Allen Armentrout (@armenhammer0516) on

So if you’re claiming it wasn’t close to what it was, would you have owned slaves?

No. But if it’s legal, you do your thing and I’ll do mine. If your conscious and religious beliefs don’t convict you, that’s fine. But the country was set up so you individually govern yourself. And I would individually govern myself to not own slaves. And he could individually govern himself to do that.

You’re saying you wouldn’t have participated in slavery but would be OK if you had friends, family or neighbors with slaves?

You have to compare it everything else in life. If your neighbor smokes weed or does something illegal, you just leave him alone. What do you want me to do? Go to his neighbor and preach on his doorstep and say he’s doing wrong? What’s the right answer?

Conversation edited for clarity and length.

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