Mississippi changing its flag is not the end of the Confederate symbols in state flags

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However, although the Mississippi flag was the last to bear the obvious image of the Confederate battle flag, there are other state flags that contain Confederate symbology that may be a little more difficult to spot.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: the crimson and blue flag that we usually call the Confederate flag is actually a Confederate battle flag, the most famous used by General Robert E. Lee’s North Virginia army .

The current flag of the Confederate States is very different: it has two red and one white stripe, with a familiar star field on the hoist. There have been four iterations throughout the short life of Confederation, each with a different number of stars to match the number of Confederate States at the time. The famous phrase “Stars and Bars”, however, generally refers to the original Confederate flag, designed in 1861, which has seven stars arranged in a circular pattern. This is an important flag to keep in mind when looking at some of the current state flag designs.

Here’s another thing to remember: flags, as a national symbol, are a relatively new invention. Marc Leepson, historian and author of the book “Flag: An American Biography”, explains that, up to a few hundred years, flags and pennants were most used for military purposes. (Another fun fact, Leepson notes: the United States had an official national flag years before France. The United States adopted its first version in 1777, while France only adopted one in 1794. , during the French Revolution.)

“For the first third of our nation’s history, from about 1777 to 1861, it was almost unknown for Americans to fly the flag. It was mainly piloted by government, military and navy, “he said.

Ironically, this all changed during the Civil War, when the Confederation was formed, and with it an enemy flag. Suddenly, American flags appeared in and around Union homes – and the practice has spread across the country in recent years.

As for the Confederate flag, it is not by mistake that it looks a bit like the American flag.

“When Confederation broke away, one of the first things the Confederate legislature did was choose a flag,” says Leepson. “There was a great debate, and the debate centered on the proximity of the American flag to the American flag. They organized a contest and took votes, and what did they do? They chose a flag with stripes and red and white stars. »»

This proved difficult later during the war. According to Leepson, during the particularly misty battle of Manassas in 1961, the Confederate commanders realized that it was difficult to distinguish the two flags. Eventually, various iterations of the Confederate battle flag became more widely used.

Looking at the different flags below, here are some things to note: the layout of the stripes on the ground, the types and placement of the stars, and what’s going on in the block – the top left of a flag where you would normally see the fifty stars on an American flag. Also pay attention to the presence of a long necklace or the cross of Saint Anthony. It is the diagonal “X” that defines the Confederate battle flag. (It is also part of many other flags around the world, including the Union Jack.)

Alabama, 1895

Since the Cross of St. Anthony is a widely used symbol, it can be easy to confuse the design of the Alabama flag with mere coincidence. However, according to the Alabama official and statistical register of 1915, the flag “was intended [state] Legislature to keep in permanent form some of the most distinctive characteristics of the Confederate battle flag, in particular the cross of Saint Andrew. “This origin is also cited by the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Arkansas, 1924

Although the Arkansas flag is, by and large, a visual cousin of the Confederate battle flag, it was designed in 1912 by a young woman from the city of Wabbaseka. According to a state historian’s description of a flag, the diamond represented the Arkansas diamond mine, and the three stars inside represented the three nations to which the state belonged: Spain, the France and the United States.

It was not until 1923 that a Confederate reference was added. State lawmakers voted to add a fourth star to the interior diamond to represent Confederation. The following year, they changed it so that the star representing the confederation was above the name of the state – and the other three below. This may be news to most budding vexillologists, but it is a fact well known to Arkansans. As early as 2019, state lawmakers introduced bills to strike the flag reference.

Florida, 1900

Before 1899, the flag of Florida was only its state seal on a white background. In that year, voters agreed to add a Red Cross of St. Anthony to the flag which, again, could be attributed to coincidence. But the change was first proposed by the then Governor of Florida, Francis P. Fleming, a staunch secessionist who fought in the 2nd Florida Regiment of the Confederate Army and was very active in groups of Confederate veterans after the war. Controversy over the flag occasionally bubbles up in Florida, although historians disagree on whether the cross should recall Confederation. Some believe it could be a reference to the flag of the Spanish Empire, known as the Burgundy Cross.

Georgia, 2003

In the years following the Civil War, the Georgian flag has undergone several changes. Yet it still looks very good on the Confederation flag – on purpose. It contained a Confederate battle flag on the fly (the free side of the flag), a design change that was made in 1956.

Why add such a problematic symbol? According to a 2000 State Senate report, compiled while Georgia was considering another flag change, the decision to add the battle flag came during the 1956 legislative session, when state legislators were determined to “preserve segregation, resisting the 1954 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Topeka Education Council and maintenance of white supremacy in Georgia. ”

The flag was finally changed in 2003 after the then governor, Sonny Perdue, gave voters the choice between a drastic and deeply unpopular overhaul proposed in 2001, and a new proposal closely resembling “Stars and Bars”. Government documents confirm the link: On the website of the Georgia Secretary of State, the current flag is described as “based on the first national flag of the Confederation”.

The fact that Georgian citizens have chosen to add a Confederate symbol to their flag to protest against desegregation shows how deeply symbolic and actively rhetorical flags can be.

“The analogy that comes to mind is that of Confederate statues,” said historian Marc Leepson. “Most of the Confederate statues were not erected just after the Civil War. They were part of the spread of the lost cause theory, then of Jim Crow and segregation. They had a purpose in the eyes of the public. ”

Although there are ongoing conversations about culture, heritage, history and the role of Confederate monuments and flags, in the case of the Confederate flag of Georgia, it is difficult to push the heritage narrative when the real reason – racism – is cemented right there in the history books.

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