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article imageThe Confederate flag — Heritage, history, subjugation of a race

By Karen Graham     Jun 23, 2015 in Politics
Gov. Nikki Haley, as well as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, have advocated for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies from a pole in front of the South Carolina capitol. They blame this flag on the hatred that caused nine people to die.
Someone might say that yes, we are finally as a nation, having a dialog about the Confederate flag and what it stands for. But the important question no one has posed is, "What does the Confederate flag stand for?"
Today, it is being seen as a flag that Dylann Roof used to assert his belief that "black life has no purpose beyond subjugation." And that is a "sick and twisted" way to think about the Confederate flag, and especially about black people. But this is what Gov. Haley asserts and is one reason she believes the flag of the Confederacy should come down.
You can be sure that this is not the first time we have seen the Confederate flag's heritage and meaning used in a derogatory manner, and it won't be the last time, either. Think about Nazi skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan and any number of organizations whose sole purpose is to push white superiority on the rest of us.
The First flag of the Confederate States of America
Let's go back to March 4, 1861. Nicola Marschall of Marion, Alabama designed the first flag to fly over the Confederacy. The flag resembled the flag of the Austrian Empire and was called the "Stars and Bars." It was first flown over the temporary capital of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1861 and was to remain the national flag of the Confederacy until May 1, 1863.
Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863)
Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863)
People in the South didn't like the stars and bars on ideological grounds. They hated the stars and stripes because it symbolized abolitionism and emancipation, which the Confederacy was officially in opposition to. In January 1862, George William Bagby, writing for the Southern Literary Messenger, wrote that many "Confederates disliked the flag. Everybody wants a new Confederate flag," Bagby wrote, stating that "The present one is universally hated. It resembles the Yankee flag and that is enough to make it unutterably detestable."
Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag
Did you know the Confederate flag, as we call it today, is actually called the Army of Northern Virginia pattern battle flag? It is not the Confederate flag everyone thinks represents the Confederacy.
At the Battle of First Bull Run/Battle of First Manassas, fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia (near Manassas), the "Stars and Bars" caused much confusion on the battlefield because it resembled the "stars and stripes" of the American flag carried by Union troops.
The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
The battle flag was first seen in 1861, and about 120 of them, in various sizes, were made up. The flag was first used by the cavalry of General P.G.T. Beauregard, the Confederacy's first duly appointed general, after he took Manassas, Virginia, in the first Battle of Bull Run.
It was made the way it was to be easily identifiable in battle. At the beginning of the Civil War, many southern troops had the blue uniforms of the state militias used before the conflict began, so on the battlefield, everyone, North and South alike, were wearing almost the same uniforms. The flag helped to determine who was shooting at who.
The second national flag - The Stainless Banner" (1863–1865)
Without a doubt, everyone in the south loved the battle flag because it was colorful, and when people were solicited for a new design for the national flag of the Confederacy, the battle flag was used in many of the designs. The Confederate Congress specified the flag must have a white background "with the union (now used as the battle flag) to be a square of two-thirds the width of the flag, having the ground red; thereupon a broad saltire of blue, bordered with white, and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States."
There was a lot of white showing on the flag, and while the Confederate Congress never explained the meaning of the white, it was a "stainless Banner." But the flag's designer, W.T. Thompson called it "the white man's flag." He is said to have stated, the flag represented the "supremacy of the white man":
"As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematic of our cause."
—William T. Thompson (April 23, 1863), Daily Morning News
The flags of the Confederacy evolve into the "Confederate flag"
There was a third national flag, called the "blood-stained banner." It was like the second national flag, but with the addition of a red vertical bar on the far end. Some said that when the flag hung limp, it resembled a "truce" banner, so the red bar put "truce" to rest. The flag was approved close to the end of the war in 1865. Truth be told, very few of the national flags of the Confederacy were ever made or flown.
The third national flag of the Confederate States of America  or Blood Stained Banner  as manufactur...
The third national flag of the Confederate States of America, or Blood Stained Banner, as manufactured by the Richmond Clothing Depot.
The Confederate flag we see and hear so much about today has also been called the rebel flag, Dixie flag, and Southern cross and is often incorrectly referred to as the "Stars and Bars." This flag was used in an appropriate manner after the Civil War in commemorating the sons of the south who had died in the war.
Interestingly, the battle flag never represented some sort of "southern pride," legacy, or any good done south of the Mason-Dixon line during the war. In the Atlantic, one writer looks at the coming of age of the Confederate flag this way: Looking forward 100 years, the writer reminds us of the thousands of lynchings, the Jim Crow era, and the case of Plessy v. Ferguson,
The Plessey vs. Ferguson Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of "separate but equal." The "separate but equal" ruling would not be struck down until the Supreme Court decision in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case in 1954.
Flying the battle flag as an act of defiance and hate
The first time the Confederate battle flag was used as a symbol of defiance was in 1948 when Strom Thurmond's States' Rights Party adopted the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia as their emblem. Thurmond's party was against allowing the president to enforce civil rights laws in the South. With this progressive platform being upheld by the Democrats, Thurman ran as a Dixiecrat.
Then, in 1961, Alabama Governor George Wallace defiantly flew the Confederate battle flag over the state legislature in response to the desegregation of schools by the federal government. Wallace purposely dredged up secession, trying to trigger again an event that had taken place in Charleston Harbor 100 years before.
George Wallace showed his defiance of federal law by blocking desegregation in Alabama.
George Wallace showed his defiance of federal law by blocking desegregation in Alabama.
People railing against desegregation, civil rights, equality and equal pay, all these things are problems we have been dealing with today. It's not anything to do with Northern rights, not Obamacare or even the Iraq war. The flag that represents the Confederacy today has become a symbol of hate. While the Confederate flag was used to mourn those who had died in the Civil War, that was 150 years ago. Truthfully, how many Southerners today still actively mourn ancestors they don't even know?
Historians will argue until they are blue in the face that slavery was not the reason the Civil War was fought. But there is too much history that refutes that belief. In October, 1957, The United Daughters of the Confederacy stated:
"Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Raphael Semmes and the 600,000 soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy did not fight for a “Lost Cause.” They fought to repel invasion, and in defense of their Constitutional liberties bequeathed them by their forefathers…"
"The glorious blood-red Confederate Battle Flag that streamed ahead of the Confederate soldiers in more than 2000 battles is not a conquered banner. It is an emblem of Freedom."
You may ask, What were those liberties bequeathed them by their forefathers? It wasn't life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In 1931, Democratic Senator Duncan Fletcher spoke at a gathering of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In describing the "lost cause," he pointed out the liberties the South had supposedly lost racial integrity, free white domination and the right of the state to determine the fate of its people.
Today, it has become a matter of "doing the right thing," calling for the removal of the flag in public places. Perhaps it could be said that there have actually been polite requests to have it removed and "put in a museum." This is America, folks. We have one flag, and only one flag that is representative of our nation. It has 50 stars and 13 red and white stripes. Our flag is not a Confederate battle flag. We should be feeling shame at even having a discussion about that flag. We need to get real, because it doesn't have any meaning today.
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