Ted Kaye on the Confederate Flag’s Design

Ted Kaye was interviewed as part of Corinne Segal’s piece yesterday in PBS NewsHour Art Beat, What the Confederate flag’s design says about its legacy.

Some excerpts:

In 1861, the National Flag Committee of the Confederate States of America wrote its official guidelines for flag design:

A flag should be simple, readily made, and capable of being made up in bunting; it should be different from the flag of any other country, place or people; it should be significant; it should be readily distinguishable at a distance; the colors should be well contrasted and durable; and lastly, and not the least important point, it should be effective and handsome.

“It encapsulates in one splendid sentence nearly all the basic principles of flag design,” Kaye said.

. . .

[T]he longest-lasting symbol of the Confederacy originated in the docked ships of a limited Confederate navy, Kaye said. Confederate ships at port frequently hung a naval jack that consisted of the battle flag without the white border.

Surprisingly, this is the one that stuck, Kaye said.

“It’s amusing to flag folks to see people [fly] a rectangular version of the Confederate battle flag without a white outline and say, ‘This is the Confederate flag, I honor my heritage, this is the one that I fly,’ when really, it’s an obscure, second-tier flag associated with the Confederacy,” he said.

. . .

In spite of its history, affinity and familiarity cause many people to describe their attachment to the flag in terms of their heritage, Kaye said. “The problem is, when you fly a flag, no one knows which meaning you’re attributing to it,” he said.

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