OPINION: The Illusive History of the Confederacy and the Confederate Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag, which some Americans take pride in, is about as un-American as a symbol can get.

Americans who proudly support the Confederate Flag – and who often see themselves as patriots – are actually supporting the flag of a nation that was so un-American that they seceded from the United States of America because of their desire to uphold the racist, white supremacist institution of slavery.

The Confederate Battle Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag, the most prevalent symbol of the Confederate States of America (CSA) was never the official flag of the CSA but was flaunted by the Confederate Army on the battlefield during the Civil War.

From 1861 to 1865 the United States (US) was in a Civil War. The Confederacy, made up of 11 southern states that had seceded from the US in 1860 and 1861 fought against the US, which was called the Union at the time and was made up of 20 free states and five border states. The Confederate States seceded because the southern economy was built on and relied on slavery, and the south wanted to uphold slavery.

The southern states fought very hard to uphold the institution of slavery and the hatred that came with it. Eventually, the Confederacy lost the Civil War, and the Confederate States once again became a part of the US.

On June 19th, 1865, a day now celebrated as Juneteenth, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were informed that they were now free, and slavery was abolished (except it wasn’t really abolished because of a loophole in the 13th Amendment which states that involuntary servitude is legal as punishment for committing a crime). The south continued to proudly flaunt the Confederate Battle Flag and built many Confederate statues in the decades after the Civil War. To this day, Confederate statues and battle flags remain prevalent in the south.

The CSA lasted four years, officially forming in 1861 and ending in 1865 after being forced to surrender to the United States (US) in the Civil War. The 11 states of the Confederacy seceded from the US after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the US because they wanted to preserve the institution of slavery, which they feared Lincoln would end, which he tried to when he somewhat abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment.

Many argue that the primary reason the CSA was formed was to protect the state’s rights and prevent a tyrannical government, but the fact remains that the primary reason was to uphold the institution of slavery. Without slavery, the South’s economy would be severely damaged.

When Mississippi seceded from the US in January of 1861, it stated in its Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union, that “Our position is clearly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world.” There is no room for interpretation. Mississippi, like the other ten states that seceded, did so because they would go to war against their own country before allowing the abolition of slavery.

Many northern states, where runaway slaves would escape to, often refused to return the slaves because they were a free state that opposed slavery, and the South couldn’t stand that. In fact, Mississippi listed this as one of the reasons for its secession.

Those who advocate for the Confederate Battle Flag to be displayed in public often say it represents Southern Heritage or freedom – the fight to preserve state’s rights. In 2017, gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, a Republican and an avid supporter of preserving Confederate battle flags and statues, held a rally in Roanoke, Virginia in which he argued for the preservation of these statues and flags to protect Virginia’s heritage.

In a Fox News interview in July of 2020, the American president Donald Trump said,

“When people proudly had their Confederate flags they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South...I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech” (President Trump).

Trump ignores the fact that the Confederacy was not part of America and that it didn’t stand for American values, as well as conveniently ignoring that the flag is a symbol of slavery and white supremacy.

Heritage is a legacy that is passed down or the background someone comes from, and the argument that the CSA is southern heritage is not a strong one. The Confederacy only lasted four years, and its legacy was that it was on the losing, not to mention wrong, side of a war fought over the right to own people as property.

The Confederacy fought for the right of white Americans to own Black Americans, nothing else. There is no “heritage” of the Confederacy, no confederate ancestry that a person has since it only existed briefly, and the only thing it passed down was racism and white supremacy, which continues to be more overt in the South – where the Confederate Battle Flag is more prevalent – than in the rest of America.

The Confederate Battle Flag is not American. It is a symbol of hate and white supremacy and is so un-American that it was the very flag flown in the battlefield in the war against the US.

Make no mistake, the Confederate Battle Flag so proudly flaunted by Americans claiming they are “patriotic” is anti-American. The fact that there are debates over this at the very highest levels of government goes to show that the US has not truly come to terms with its past of slavery, institutionalized racism, and white supremacy, which prevail today.

Written by Sydney Henderson


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