A Southerner’s Thoughts on Southern Heritage and the Confederate Battle Flag

I want to give a hat tip to the CWMemory blog for highlighting the following video. It is from YouTube member “D Ennis,” and discusses what Southern Heritage and the Confederate Flag (also called the Confederate Battle Flag, or CBF) mean to him.

I have two thoughts on this video. First, I hope it’s not interpreted as meaning that the author is expressing intolerance for Southern heritage, or is saying, for example, that he’s against people being able to display the Confederate flag, if they so choose. He’s simply saying that, the Confederate flag means one thing to some people and another thing to him; and that his own view of Southern Heritage and the CBF is a legitimately Southern one.

Second, I think it’s important to understand how the video author’s feelings came to be. He associates the CBF with segregation and massive resistance, and there is a reason for that. During the Jim Crow/Civil Rights Movement/Massive Resistance Era, many whites associated their behavior with the CBF, and used the CBF and Confederate iconography as their symbol. Consider the famous 1963 inauguration speech of Alabama governor George Wallace, in which he invoked the Confederacy as follows:

Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.

Note that Wallace explicitly draws a straight line from the creation of the Confederacy to the continuation of racial segregation.

Images such as the following one (Wallace in front of the CBF) caused segregation and massive resistance to be conflated with the Confederacy, in the minds of a lot of folks.

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Secession in South Carolina: Celebrate or Commemorate?

“One group held a gala ball to celebrate the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. Another contingent rallied in opposition to that ball. South Carolina is a state that is divided on how we should remember this undeniably historic event.”

So begins a discussion on South Carolina’s public affairs program Connections about whether to celebrate or commemorate South Carolina’s secession from the United States in 1860. Program host P. A. Bennett talks it over with Michael A. Allen, a public historian and member of the National Park Service; Jannie Harriot, co-chair of the African American Historical Alliance of South Carolina, executive director of the South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation; and Dr. Lonnie Randolf, president of the SC State Conference of the NAACP.

It’s nice to see a discussion that includes somebody from the National Park Service, given the NPS’ role in developing the interpretation and presentation of the War on government owned and managed sites.

Click here or on the graphic below to see the video for the program.