• Otto Blac

A Flag That Lost Its Purpose

The Confederate flag took on many iterations, then much later after the Civil War it took on a new meaning.

Fathers of Confederacy
Image made available by Daniel Hagerman

Most of us know which side won the war in 1865. But few know the Confederate flag we see today is most representative of Robert General E. Lee’s Army of N. Virginia. His victories embedded pride into the flag and became adopted by the entire Confederate army.The Confederate flag had a few iterations before General Lee’s. Other flag designs confused fighters on Confederate forces. Today states like Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama have a wee bit of confederate roots in their state flags. But today we’re looking at the life of the Confederate flag after the Civil.

In 1904 the United Confederate Veterans decided the square Army of North Virginia battle flag would represent the Confederacy.

Southerners had likened themselves to the Army of Tennesse’s flag and preferred the rectangular shape, which mirrored the United States flag.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy alongside the UCV pushed for the representation of the correct flag pattern. The banner would stand for old heroes of the Confederacy, and used as a marker of heritage through symbolic meaning. Today, a southern flag might feel more synonymous with racism than heritage memorialization.

In all the time before the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t dependent on the Confederate flag as a display of Southern roots.

During the 1940s, men in the US services would get to know one another, and those who called themself Southerners would rep the Confederate battle flag. One historian estimates the Confederate flag took on political meaning around 1948. Kappa Alpha Order is a Southern fraternity at what is now Washington and Lee University. Kappa Alpha would use the banner at school events, and eventually, it showed up at college football games. In politics, the Confederate flag first appeared in the Southern States Rights Party convention. Students from around the South gathered to protest Civil Rights activities. The Confederate flag became a symbol of resistance for the Dixicrats. The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not want the flag used for political expression and tried to prevent it from “misuse.” Attempts to keep the flag as a commemorative memorial for fallen soldiers and off the political stage failed. During the mid 20th century, the flag wavered from memorialization into a symbol for those supporting Jim Crow laws and Civil Rights violations.

Because of Civil Rights movement progress and the 1954 outcome of Brown v. Board of Education, the Stars and Bars fused with Klan rituals. The Klan’s terrorist and brutal activities charged the Southern flag as an offensive symbol of hatred and white supremacy we know today. Six months after the 2015 Charleston Church Massacre in, which left 9 Black churchgoers dead, there were at least 364 Pro-Confederate flag rallies. Why? The flag we see today was never actually present on the battlefield.

Whether they were standing up for heritage or defending the flag’s usage as a 1st amendment right, one thing is clear: the Confederate flag symbolizes racism in America. It cannot be struck from the record how the Southern army lost the war, nor should we forget the compromised ideals of many fighters. But to carry the flag in opposition to what the United States is supposed to stand for is traitorous. To denounce all foreign enemies yet remain in undying support of those domestic is a sinister, if not downright stupid occupation. Those who wave the flag today wave it out of ignorance in favor of hatred. No matter what side you’re on, today, the Confederate flag seems to whisper into the wind, “why can’t things be the way they used to?

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