by Ted Kaye, Vexilloid Tabloid #53
In June, the flag world witnessed a huge shift in attitudes toward the Confederate Battle Flag. Following the race-based shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, public opinion moved swiftly toward removing the flag from public displays and from merchant shelves.
“Few emblems in American history have provoked stronger passions than the battle flag of the vanquished Confederacy. To some it symbolizes honor and independence; to others, hatred and slavery”, says Tony Horwitz, in Confederates in the Attic (1998).
Usually only an occasional interview guest discussing flag topics in local and national media, for two weeks I found myself speaking daily—to Slate, NPR, National Geographic, CNN, PBS, Georgia Public Radio, KXL Radio (in Portland)—providing history, background, and perspective on the controversy.
Ironically, the work for which I may be best known, the flag-design guidebook Good Flag, Bad Flag, quotes the National Flag Committee of the Confederate States of America in describing what makes a successful flag design.
Top-name retailers, flag manufacturers, and flag dealers tripped over themselves to stop selling or making the flags—although Huntsville’s Alabama Flag & Banner ramped up production and sales!
Here in Portland, The Oregonian described how Dave Anchel, PFA member and owner of Elmer’s Flag & Banner, consulted his staff and his conscience, and decided to remove the flag from display, only offering it for sale from behind the counter. Regardless, his entire stock sold out the next day.
In likely the most newsworthy aspect of the controversy, the battle flag came down from the Confederate Soldiers monument on the South Carolina statehouse grounds. Prediction: Mississippi’s state flag will be the next target for change.
For more information, consult The Confederate Battle Flag, America’s Most Embattled Emblem by John M. Coski (2005). It provides a strong history of the flag and its evolving use from 1861 to the present.