The Confederate Flag: A Blast from its Past


Josh Queen, a 17-year-old from Maury High School in Norfolk, recently took a Confederate flag to an abandoned area to burn.

“If you respect all people of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, you will take down this flag,” Josh said about why he decided to destroy the emblem.

For Josh, the flag is a symbol of hatred and a backwards world, because he thinks that “just because it is our heritage, it doesn't mean we should be proud of it.”

Josh isn’t the only one who feels this way. According to the Pew Research Center, only one in 10 Americans “feels positively” when they see the Confederate flag, The flag and its meaning have become national news after Dylann Roof entered a South Carolina church last month and killed nine black congregants. Pictures have since surfaced with Roof posing with the flag and his postings declaring that he hated African Americans.

Following the shooting, several retailers have banned the sales of the Confederate flag  including eBay, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, and Etsy,

But what many people may not realize, historians say, is that the Confederate flag has a long history and it wasn’t always as controversial as it is now.

The bright-red and blue emblem banner did not become popular until the Civil War ended in 1865.

Before then, three national flags officially represented the Southern states or the Confederate army during the war.

The first national flag, “The Stars and Bars,” was used 1861 through 1863. It was designed to look similar to the American flag, which was also the reason for its demise. Troops from long distances couldn’t tell  the difference between the Stars and Bars or the American flag, which represented the Union army at that time.

This lead to the creation of the second national flag, known as “The Stainless Banner." The word “stainless” referred to its white canvas background, which was supposed to appear similar to a pure white field. Because of its white background, however, the flag was often misinterpreted as a sign of truce.

The third national flag, “The Blood Stained Banner," was introduced by Major Arthur L. Rogers in 1865. It got its name for a stripe of red on its right side.  It is the only part of the flag that differentiated it from “The Stainless Banner.”  The top right hand corner of the second and third national flag had what is now known as “The Battle Flag,” or what people now see as the present Confederate flag.

The “Blood Stained Banner” was used by Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Northern Army starting in March 1862. This flag is the most prominent flag of the Confederate Army; some historians believe it emerged as so because Lee’s army was known for important victories, including the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. Historians also believe that the Battle Flag became popular because it helped lessen the blow of losing the war, and came to symbolize their heritage. To northerners, it was called  “the damn red flag of the rebellion,” according to John Coski, a nationally recognized historian at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond and author of “The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem.”

Coski said that the flag was usually only present in the south at memorials for soldiers until the 1940s, before the height of the Civil Rights era. The flag then was used by southerners who opposed integration. This is how the flag began to emerge as a symbol of black hatred and other negative connotations, he said

“It is a symbol of an attitude,” Coski said, “It becomes controversial when it goes against the status-quo.”

The Battle flag was also adopted by the Ku Klux Klan in its ceremonies, although the KKK also used the American flag in protests and their ceremonies at times.

Coski said that the KKK is a large part why many people believe the flag symbolizes black hatred.  Other organizations that have widely supported the Confederate flag include the United Daughters of the Confederacy and United Confederate Veterans.

The Confederate flag has been controversial for years, but in recent weeks protests against it have spanned across the United States. A Facebook page called for making June 27th “National Burn the Confederate Flag Day.”  Another petition was put up on to “Remove the Confederate Flag From all Government Places,” which over 569,500 people have signed.

Although many people have protested the confederate flag, supporters of the flag are standing out on Facebook. Terry Purvis Garrie commented on the National Confederate Flag page,” Well ya'll took down the Great Confederate Flag and it back fired it just made us stronger. So ya'll can burn the Great Confederate Flag and again it's going to make us even stronger. Because everyday more & more people are standing up and showing their support for the Great Confederate Flag. Ya'll think it's hurting us well again your wrong again it's just making the Great Confederate Flag stronger.”