The true meaning of the Confederate Flag

Written by: Hannah Forsythe

For twelve years, I lived in Northern Virginia. I lived right outside of DC- you could get there in 30 minutes on a good day- in a town called Woodbridge. I grew up in a very diverse population and was taught to never judge someone based on skin color by my parents. Of course, like every other place in America, there was racism shown. The most blatant display of racism had to be the confederate flag flown right next to I-95. I don’t know when it was put up, but all I know is that it’s been there for as long as I can remember and was so big that the owner required a permit to fly it. Around 2017, my family and I moved to Alabama. I love the south and Alabama- trust me. But I had never seen so much racism shown before I moved here. I was shocked. I’d see boys fly the flag on the back of their trucks proudly and plaster bumper stickers on the bumper with no hesitation. Recently, with the rightful uproar of the Black Lives Matter Movement, I decided to read into the meaning of the Confederate Flag. Do these people know what they’re waving around so proudly and what it actually means?


The Official Flag- This flag is the official flag of The Confederacy. It’s commonly known as the “Stars and Bars” and was in use from March 1861 to May of 1863. Though this was the official flag of the confederacy, it caused confusion on the battlefield due to its uncanny resemblance to the US flag.

The Confederate Battle Flag- This flag, the one that everyone waves around was the battle flag. There are conflicting reports saying that this flag was only used by the armies of Tennessee and Northern Virginia while other reports say that it was used by all forces under the Confederacy.

The Second Official Flag of the Confederacy- This version was adopted May 1st, 1863. It was the first time that the “Southern Cross”' was used on the official flag. This version did cause confusion as it resembled the flag of surrender when limp.

The Third Official Flag of the Confederacy- This version was adopted March 4th, 1865. There is not much to say on this one as it was put in to use a short time before the Confederacy collapsed.

The Facts

  • The Confederacy was made up of 11 states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

  • “It attempted to establish a new nation in which the authority of the central government would be strictly limited and the institution of slavery would be protected.” (HistoryNet)

  • The Confederacy wanted stronger states rights.

  • Within their constitution, slavery was protected. The importation of slaves was not protected, though.

  • Right after the Civil War, the flag didn’t show up often. The resurgence of the flag came in 1948 when the Dixiecrats party was formed.

  • The Dixiecrat party was a short-lived political party formed with the intention of protecting states rights and maintaining segregation. It flew the confederate flag proudly at rallies. The party was founded in 1948

The Lesson

To some southerners, this flag symbolizes their heritage and honor to those who lost their lives for a cause they cared about. But does it really mean that? When waving around that flag, do you really want to honor the people who rebelled against the country you live in and stood for white supremacy? When that flag is flown, the ideals that went along with slavery and the Dixiecrat Party are being brought back to life. When I have tried to talk this through with die-hard supporters at my school, I’ve gotten the excuse of “the leaders didn’t own slaves. They weren’t racist.” An article by HistoryNet brought to my attention that “It is true that many Confederate troops did not own black people. But the Confederate leaders did not stutter when it came to their support of slavery and white supremacy.” So, the utilization of that excuse isn’t accurate at all. How would a “nation” that was fighting for the right to slavery, not be racist? The article even goes on to acknowledge something else I’m always told, “[The flag does] symbolize the struggles of men on well-known battlefields like Manassas, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Gettysburg. But there is no denying the role the battle flag played during the war’s bitter aftermath and Reconstruction and its use by 20th-century white supremacist groups.” An example of the utilization of the flag by white supremacist groups is the Dixiecrat party. One of the ideals of the party was segregation. They flew the Confederate flag because they knew that when it was flown, it would provoke a sense of racism and segregation. Five years ago, it was flown by white supremacist, Dylann Roof, before he walked into a South Carolina chuch and murdered nine black church gooers. Roof even called for a “race war.”

Not only does this flag have a disgusting racial connotation, it also has an “anti-America” one as well. The Confederacy seceded from the United States. They rebelled and decided to create their own country, even though they were still very much so dependent on the Union. A good comparison for this is the flying of the Nazi flag in Germany. It is rarely flown and there are laws to prevent it in public places. When you think about it, why would anyone fly that flag? As children in America, we’re taught that Nazis are bad and what they stood for is bad as well. They hated Jewish people and put them in concentration camps. The Confederates advocated for the ability to own human beings as property, how is that even better?

In America, we preach, “liberty and justice for all.” Our founding fathers created this country as a safe haven for people who were prosecuted. Waving the Confederate flag reminds people of color of a time where they weren’t as free as the white man. It reminds of five short years where America was divided. Those five years are a horrible smudge on America's past and is something that we need to officially cut ties from.

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