Flag Change in Columbia, South Carolina

by Ted Kaye

Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, could really use a change of topic when it comes to flags.

As the focal point for display of the Confederate Battle Flag in the South, the city hosted a turning point in the fractious debate, with the removal of the flag from the Confederate Monument in front of the capitol, in July 2015, by order of Governor Nikki Haley.

Calls for the flag’s removal had intensified since the murder of nine people in the Charleston church shooting the month before.

The flag had flown from a pole next to the monument, surrounded by a concrete deck and a small fence.  Within a day of the decision to remove it, all of that was gone and sod was being laid in its place.

The most visible event associated with the flag was its lowering two weeks before as an act of civil disobedience by a young African-American filmmaker, Brittany Ann “Bree” Newsome, whose pole-climb went viral and won praise from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

newsome
Activist Bree Newsome capturing the Confederate flag on the SC state house grounds, as interpreted by Rebecca Cohen. [Museum May/June 2016]
I visited Columbia in 2009 in conjunction with NAVA 43 (Charleston), and then again this year.  That provided an opportunity to see the monument before (with flag) and after (without flag).

The Columbia Design League and the local arts-commission equivalent had invited me in September to speak about flag design and how the city flag might be improved.

Columbia’s flag has served the city for more than a century, but it represents a bygone era (corn and cotton) with an outdated, ineffective design (a seal on a bedsheet).

Local leaders have begun an effort to consider updating the flag as part of reclaiming civic pride and improving the branding of the city.  A large group came together at the Columbia Museum of Art for a workshop to learn about flag design and discuss ideas for change.

Perhaps this new flag topic will bring positive attention to Columbia.  It may well show how flags are far more than designs on bits of cloth, and can serve a community as a unifying symbol.

 

Mississippi Flag Initiatives

Last November we wrote about the Flag for All Mississippians Coalition (NewMSFlag.org) and contentious efforts underway in the Magnolia State to change the current state flag, the only state flag to include the Confederate battle flag.  Here is an update.

The NewMSFlag people are currently collecting signatures to qualify The Flag for All Mississippians Act​ as Initiative 55 on the November 2018 [!] ballot.  This would add the following to the state constitution: “The flag of the State of Mississippi shall not contain or include any reference to the Confederate army’s battle flag or to the Confederacy.” (It does not propose a new flag, but forces the creation and adoption of one by making the current flag unconstitutional.) In addition to the coalition’s founder, Sharon C. Brown, two Baptist pastors express their support on the initiative’s page on Ballotpedia.

According to Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s website, in opposition to Initiative 55 there are five anti-flag-change initiatives also seeking to be qualified for a future ballot.  Initiative 21, Initiative 46, Initiative 54, Initiative 56, and Initiative 58 would all amend the state constitution to define the state flag as the current state flag (adopted 1894).

Of these, Initiative 46 “State Heritage” is most colorful and expansive. In addition to flag-related declarations, it defines the state to be “principally Christian and quintessentially Southern”, makes English the official language (making an exception for “Latin or French” for heraldry purposes), requires the state song “Dixie” (or “Go, Mississippi”) to be played immediately after the national anthem, defines “Colonel Reb” and “Bully” (the Bulldog) to be the official mascots of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, respectively, designates April to be “Confederate Heritage Month”, and nullifies the repeal of an article in the constitution that had changed “borders and boundaries” of the state. Sections III and XI deal with flags:

The state flag of Mississippi shall be the state flag adopted in 1894, which has been in continuous use since 1894, and which was confirmed by statewide vote in 2001. The state flag of Mississippi shall be displayed in front of all public buildings, including but not limited to all state, county, and municipal buildings and any school receiving state funding. Wherever the national flag is displayed on public land or in public buildings, a state flag of equal size shall also be displayed. In Mississippi public schools and other public institutions, whenever the pledge of allegiance to the national flag is recited, the state flag salute shall be recited immediately thereafter. The state flag salute shall be: “I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign [sic] state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.” [Section III]

In honor of the Mississippians who served under this military flag, the Confederate Battle Flag, measuring at minimum four feet by four feet, shall be permanently displayed on a flag-pole directly behind and above the monument to Confederate women on the state capitol’s exterior grounds. The right to place and display flags at veterans’ graves shall not be infringed. Within Mississippi, all publicly owned, publicly held, or publicly managed Confederate or Confederate-themed items, including but not limited to monuments, statues, works of art, relics, markers, signs, names, titles, structures, roads, parks, graves, and cemeteries shall be preserved and maintained by the state government, which may delegate applicable duties to the respective counties or municipalities for this purpose; for all cases in which said items were renamed, the more historical name shall take precedence and be reestablished in full. [Section XI]

The Jackson Free Press reports that in the state legislature there is a proposal to de-fund any university or state government that refuses to fly the existing state flag (as several have done).  The same article reports a proposal by Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden (presumably no relation to Edward) for the state to have two state flags, one with the battle flag and one without — which has raised some eyebrows with its echo of the infamous “separate but equal”.  (This backs down from Snowden’s statement in June: “I believe any state flag should be a common symbol citizens can unite behind and proudly embrace as their own. If our flag is no longer useful for those purposes (to instill pride and unity across the broad spectrum of citizens), then we should reconsider its current status.”)

Finally, on a more constructive note, artist Laurin Stennis, the granddaughter of segregationist Senator John C. Stennis (1901-1995), has proposed a new design for the state flag.

stennis-flag
2015 proposal by Laurin Stennis

She describes the symbolism:

Nineteen small blue stars with one large star in the center represents Mississippi as the twentieth state to join the Union. The small stars form a circle, a shape that represents wholeness, unity, and potential. Red bars stand opposite one another, recognizing the passionate differences we sometimes harbor. Joining all elements is a field of white symbolizing illumination, spirituality, brightness and promise.

(You can learn more via her website declaremississippi.com, Facebook page Mississippi: I Declare, and a podcast interview.)

The symbolism is quite unusual for representing and respecting disharmony, the “passionate differences we sometimes harbor”.

Stennis’ design is (unintentionally) similar to that of the Canadian flag:

Flag_of_Canada.svg

And this flag, in turn, can be imagined as two faces arguing!

38a
Sketch from reddit/r/todayilearned

Our Most Popular Posts of 2015

Here are our 20 most-viewed* blog posts of the year.


#20 – Andy Warhol and the American Flag (226 views)

Andy Warhol, 1983 - by Alberto Schommer
Andy Warhol, 1983 – by Alberto Schommer

#19 – Fargo — A Flag for the Flagless? (247 views)

WEB_FargoFlag_Crtsy-The-Arts-Partnership
The most popular submission is this remarkably simple but unconventional design.

#18 – Heart Flags (257 views)

Tim Van Horn took 2010 portraits of Canadians between 10/08 and 1/10, and created this Canadian Heart Flag mosaic.
Tim Van Horn took 2010 portraits of Canadians between 10/08 and 1/10, and created this Canadian Heart Flag mosaic.

#17 – American Flag Refreshed for 2015 (303 views)

Flag of the United States of America, as of 1 April 2015.
Flag of the United States of America, as of 1 April 2015.

#16 – The Flag of HDYNATION (307 views)

A Flosstradamusified Chicago flag.
A Flosstradamusified Chicago flag.

#15 – Outkast’s Stankonia flag (330 views)

Cover of the album Stankonia.
Cover of the album Stankonia.

#14 – Letter Society Project 25: City Flag (338)

"For Project 25, we are going to be (re)designing a city flag. It doesn’t matter which city. Just pick one and make a beautiful flag for it :)" June 2015 design challenge by @LetterSociety
“For Project 25, we are going to be (re)designing a city flag. It doesn’t matter which city. Just pick one and make a beautiful flag for it :)” June 2015 design challenge by @LetterSociety

#13 – US City Flag Improvement Efforts (353 views)

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Current flag of Grand Rapids, Michigan

#12 – Improving Boston’s City Flag (381 views)

Boston, Massachusetts
Flag of Boston, Massachusetts.

#10 – Historical Flags (385 views)

loeser
Pete Loeser’s website Historical Flags of Our Ancestors has grown over time into a wonderful resource for vexillologists and flag enthusiasts.

#10 – Provo Puts Its Latest Logo on a Bedsheet (385 views)

Flag of Provo as of January 6, 2015. Designed by Stephen Hales.
Flag of Provo as of January 6, 2015. Designed by Stephen Hales.

#9 – Designs Sought for New Milwaukee Flag (414 views)

The city flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, designed by former alderman Fred Steffan in 1955 based on submissions to a design contest.
The city flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, designed by former alderman Fred Steffan in 1955 based on submissions to a design contest.

#8 – The Vexillogicast (427 views)

Simon the Cannibal
Simon the Cannibal

#7 – Mexican-American Flags (495 views)

IMG_6722
Mexican-American Flag, by Nacho Becerra. Tapestry with silkscreened stars and altered sarape.

#6 – SF Flag Redesigns (563 views)

Rachel Berger's proposal symbolizes changing fortunes: "the story of [SF] has never been flat". It can be hung with the arrow ascending, or descending, depending on the flyer's mood.
Rachel Berger’s proposal symbolizes changing fortunes: “the story of [SF] has never been flat”. It can be hung with the arrow ascending, or descending, depending on the flyer’s mood.

#5 – Machine Gun Kelly: Raise the Flag (595 views)

mgk-raisetheflag-still2
From the music video: a black and white version of the US/EST 19XX flag, sewn together with a standard US flag.

#4 – Andy Warhol, NASA, and the Making of “Moonwalk” (1,248 views)

Detail of the original raw image, showing Armstrong reflected in Aldrin's visor.
Detail of the original raw image, showing Armstrong reflected in Aldrin’s visor.

#3 – Hip Hop and the Confederate Flag (1,401 views)

Image on Yeezus 2013 merchandise. From "Kanye West Is Trying To Take The Confederate Flag Back" by Sharmin Kent on thinkprogress.com.
Image on Yeezus 2013 merchandise. From “Kanye West Is Trying To Take The Confederate Flag Back” by Sharmin Kent on thinkprogress.com.

#2 – What If There Were No Third Flag Act? (1,715 views)

Michael Orelove and his 50-star, 50-stripe US flag.
Michael Orelove and his 50-star, 50-stripe US flag.

#1 – 23 Finalists for New Fiji Flag (32,833 views)

Flag_of_Fiji.svg
The current Fijian flag

* as of 28 December 2015, excluding the number of times a post was viewed via our homepage, portlandflag.org.

A Flag for All Mississippians

According to its designer the state flag of Mississippi includes the Confederate battle flag in order to “perpetuate in a legal and lasting way that dear battle flag under which so many of our people had so gloriously fought”.  Dating back to 1894, the design has certainly lasted — 121 years so far.

State flag of Mississippi. Designed by E. N. Scudder in 1894.
The state flag of Mississippi. Designed by state senator E. N. Scudder in 1894, it is the last US state flag to depict the Confederate battle flag.

In the widespread backlash against Confederate imagery following the massacre of six black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina this summer, Mississippi’s flag has attracted significant negative attention.  State House Speaker Philip Gunn and US Senator Roger Wicker, both prominent Republicans, have publicly endorsed removing the Confederate cross from the flag, and last month the University of Mississippi at Oxford and all campuses of the University of Southern Mississippi have removed the flag from official display.

An SMU police officer takes down the state flag, 28 October 2015. Photo by Brittany Stewart, Student Printz.
An SMU police officer takes down the state flag, 28 October 2015. Photo by Brittany Stewart, Student Printz.

New York Times article recently assessed the uphill fight opponents of the flag will need to win in order to redesign the state flag.  According to the article, the flag remains popular but divisive.  A 2001 referendum to change it was defeated after being opposed by 90 percent of whites, despite its support by 95 percent of blacks (these numbers from the 2006 book Mississippi Politics); without substantial change by Mississippi’s whites, a new referendum would likely suffer the same fate:

If a new flag is to be adopted, the simple math of a 60 percent white majority statewide dictates that it will come down to whether enough whites support it, either in the Legislature or at the polls. Feelings about the flag run so deep — as evident from the recent arrest of a man in Tupelo who was accused of firebombing a Walmart for not selling Confederate merchandise — that a widespread change of heart seems hard to fathom. (from Mississippi Flag, a Rebel Holdout, Is in a New Fight, Campbell Robertson, NY Times).

Nevertheless, the Flag for All Mississippians Coalition (NewMSFlag.org) is moving forward with a campaign to amend the state constitution with this text: The flag of the State of Mississippi shall not contain or include any reference to the Confederate army’s battle flag or to the Confederacy.

The 2001 referendum proposed this redesign.
The 2001 referendum proposed this redesign. It is very similar to the “stars and bars,” the Confederacy’s first national flag, though the top bar is blue, not red, and the circular star emblem differs.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger found in a recent poll of 1500 readers that 45% supported the current flag, 24% the Magnolia flag of 1861, 12% the 2001 proposal, 9% the “Bonnie Blue” flag, and 10% “something else”.  Though a popular alternative, the Magnolia flag is hardly free on Confederate symbolism, as it was a symbol of secessionist Mississippi and used by the United Confederate Veterans of the state.  In an excellent article on the history of the Mississippi flag in the Jackson Free Press, Arielle Dreher points out that the Magnolia flag was banned by the US government in 1865 as a “symbol of treason”.

From the Jackon Free Press, 9-15 September 2015.
The “Magnolia flag”. From the Jackon Free Press, 9-15 September 2015.

In terms of what “something else” might look like, the Clarion-Ledger invited readers to submit designs and selected 10 of them for (currently open) online polling.

clarion-ledger-designs

For many more proposed redesigns of the Mississippi state flag, check out the Jackson Free Press #MSFlagDIY project.

Flutterings (from VexTab #53)

from Vexilloid Tabloid #53

Note: “Flutterings” — notes from the editor on our last meeting — is a regular feature in The Vexilloid Tabloid.

July Flutterings You Need to Know

In our July meeting, hosted by Ted Kaye, 16 PFA members enjoyed a lively 3+-hour evening of flags and other wide-ranging topics.  As the host, Ted led the introductions and moderated the discussion.

John Schilke exulted in seeing a photo of a Roerich flag displayed on SE Stephens St.) and gave a brief description of its creator and its purpose—to protect cultural sites in wartime—(see VT #20).

Michael Orelove gave updates on his flags-for-educational-purposes solicitations, showed off some flags and burgees, and passed around the results of his writing off for state seals—40 of 50 states have responded so far.

David Koski described his project to facilitate flag image construction using Adobe InDesign, with layers for standard flag components—he showed resulting example flags.

David Koski shows some results from his flag image generator.
David Koski shows some results from his flag image generator.

Ted Kaye led a discussion of the Confederate Battle Flag controversy, using actual flags to illustrate the history of the CSA’s flag use.  He has been very actively giving interviews in the past two weeks at the local and national levels on that and other subjects (see The Confederate Flag Flap).

At the July 2015 PFA meeting, Ted Kaye provides a summary of the flags of the Confederacy, displaying the first national flag, the “Stars and Bars” as John Schilke and Fred Paltridge look on.
Ted Kaye provides a summary of the flags of the Confederacy, displaying the first national flag, the “Stars and Bars” as John Schilke and Fred Paltridge look on.

Lorraine Bushek, joining us for the first time, described her work as an artist, including the 3rd-place finalist in the 2009 Oregon flag redesign effort.

Lorraine Bushek describes her finalist entry for the Oregon flag redesign.
Lorraine Bushek describes her finalist entry for the Oregon flag redesign.

Ken Dale reflected on the symbolism of the U.S. Capitol building—whose construction continued even during the Civil War.

Scott Mainwaring noted that cellphone cases featuring the Portland flag orient upside-down when the phone is held vertically.  He created a corrected version on Zazzle.com.  He has also been experimenting with giving digitally generated US flags a “hand-made” feel, with “randomly-perturbed” stars and colors.

Scott Mainwaring and his U.S. flag with “randomly perturbed” stars.
Scott Mainwaring and his U.S. flag with “randomly perturbed” stars.

Max Liberman consulted with the assembled members on agenda items for the 24th general assembly of FIAV in Sydney in September; he and Ted were named delegate and alternate.  He then shared some of the thousands of submissions for a new flag for New Zealand—the good and the bad.

Some of the stranger New Zealand entries amuse Max Liberman.
Some of the stranger New Zealand entries amuse Max Liberman.

Nathaniel Mainwaring, who enters 4th grade this fall, updated us on his Minecraft-based flag work, featuring zombie pig-men.

Nathaniel Mainwaring shares his Minecraft-based flag.
Nathaniel Mainwaring shares his Minecraft-based flag.

Casey Sims described the development of his personal flag, and closed his presentation with a song on his guitar.

Casey Sims sings a song inspired by his new personal flag, enjoyed by Robert Izatt, Ken Dale, and Dennis Stephens.
Casey Sims sings a song inspired by his new personal flag, enjoyed by Robert Izatt, Ken Dale, and Dennis Stephens.

Patrick Genna displayed a recent Goodwill acquisition—a large flag of Antigua & Barbuda and distributed a fact sheet about it.

Robert Izatt described the crowdfunding campaign for the Cascadian Flag-Making Cooperative.

David Ferriday showed his latest flag-based art and noted that a  recent local flag store’s ad depicts the Portland flag upside-down…

David Ferriday fooled everyone when unfurling a black military flag.
David Ferriday fooled everyone when unfurling a black military flag.

Alexander Baretich shared some of his recent designs, including the Cascadia nautical flag (see article, p. 6), religious flags, and another bio-regional flag—that of Danubia.

Alexander Baretich debuts a topical variant of his Cascadia flag.
Alexander Baretich debuts a topical variant of his Cascadia flag.

Dennis Stephens lauded the recent Roman Mars TED Talk on city flag design: “Why city flags may be the worst-designed think you’ve never noticed” (ted.com), and showed the flag stickers on his laptop documenting his travels.

The meeting started at 7:00 and adjourned at 10:20, reflecting the host’s poor timekeeping ability.

Our next meeting will be at the home of Larry Snyder on Sept. 10th.  Patrick took the Portland Flag Association flag for him—the customary task of the next host.

The Confederate Flag Flap

by Ted Kaye, Vexilloid Tabloid #53

At the July 2015 PFA meeting, Ted Kaye provides a summary of the flags of the Confederacy, displaying the first national flag, the “Stars and Bars” as John Schilke and Fred Paltridge look on.
At the July 2015 PFA meeting, Ted Kaye provides a summary of the flags of the Confederacy, displaying the first national flag, the “Stars and Bars” as John Schilke and Fred Paltridge look on.

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.

Political cartoon by Enrico Bertuccioli, cartoonmovement.com, 22 June 2015.
Political cartoon by Enrico Bertuccioli, cartoonmovement.com, 22 June 2015.

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.

Need More Confederate Flag News and Commentary?

Cannonsflagchart2
The Contest for a Confederate National Flag, artwork by Deveraux Cannon and Dave Martucci. Copyright 2003, North American Vexillological Association.

In addition to looking at old NAVA publications (see above), and perusing Richard Gideon’s American Vexillum™ compendium, you should also check out the Confederate Flag section on Flipboard.  Here are some postings that appeared there yesterday:

The Confederate flag? My personal story

Here is another story from a flag merchant who has reconsidered the Confederate flag.  Originally posted on Peter Orenski’s TMEALF mailing list.


The Confederate flag? My personal story, not great, but clear enough.

by Lee L Herold, 27 June 2015

In 1967 I was fresh out of college, waiting for active duty in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. I worked that summer for my brother Ken in blacktop construction. I also worked doing taxes returns in the winter (when asphalt construction stops due to the intense cold & snow).  I lived in Rochester, Minnesota, a “northern” city of about 25,000. Surveys about that time listed Rochester as the “whitest” city in the country for its’ size.

How northern is Minnesota? After the guns at Fort Sumter South Carolina, Minnesota was the first State to volunteer troops to defend the Union. Minnesota troops fought across the country, and performed significant service at the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg. At Gettysburg Minnesota troops played a near suicidal role to save the right flank of the Union forces and suffered the highest casualty rate of any units during the war.

So, in 1966 Ken (see above) hired a black salesman, Joe Shepard. Joe was the first black I had ever actually met and talked to. He was of a different culture, in the way he dressed, his speech, mannerisms, and outrageously he was a Bai’hai, a quasi-Christian. Amazingly, he was a very good salesman, perhaps for the culture reasons, I don’t know. The crew was not happy. They did not say much, but it was unmistakable when he came around to the jobs they didn’t like it. Fortunately, he was on the road a lot.

In 1967, Ken hired an additional black person as office manager, John Berry. Since I was familiar with bookkeeping and taxes, I already did office work, so I expected to work closely with John. About a week after John was there, the entire crew stormed into the office. Walked in does not cover it, they violently threw open the door, anger and tension radiating out. I backed up, John backed up, Ken who was sitting in front of the desk, right in front of them didn’t move.

They presented an ultimatum: “We won’t take any orders from a Negro!” “Either he goes or we’ll all quit.” That’s all I remember verbatim. The room was so tense I can still feel it. There was a long silence, we all waited for Ken’s response. Ken’s head was down, he was fighting for control. Finally, after what seemed forever, in a hoarse but firm voice he said: “Then I guess you’ll have to quit.” He didn’t look up.

Everyone was stunned, including me. There was a pause, and the crew slowly filed out, without a word.

They did not quit. Not one. And they did take orders from a black person.

Of course I loved my brother, and held him in high respect. But this was raw courage, his business was on the line. Training a new crew just as construction season was beginning, or even finding people would not have been likely. He was shaken, his stomach cramped, but he stood tall.

There is more. Rochester, in north state Minnesota, home of the world famous Mayo Clinic, had patients come from all over the world. Our small town had as many hotels because of the patient load as the 300,000-resident St. Paul. But blacks could only stay in one hotel, the Avalon. Not run down, but definitely a low-class hotel. So when Joe or John had friends come to Rochester to visit, if the hotel was full, they would have to put them up themselves, as no other place would take them. When Joe or John tried to find housing, it was nearly impossible, definitely nothing nice. People were afraid of them or simply refused.

In late 1967 I was called up for active duty in the Navy. I wound up for 6 months in Pensacola, Florida. There for the first time I saw rest rooms for “whites” and “colored”. Drinking fountains were labeled, restaurants, and on and on. I was offended and appalled. And then I saw away from the shiny cities, the slums, people living in tar paper lean-tos. Disgusting.

The Confederate flag was raised in the South to prevent any changes to this system. It was the symbol of defiance, the symbol of suppression, hate, ignorance, death. The South, and even the North, i.e., Rochester, were forced to change.

Yes, I have sold the Confederate flag. It looks grand. But so does the Nazi flag. I have always felt uncomfortable selling the Confederate flag (what would Joe & John have thought, or felt?). But customers are my income.

Now the country is taking the last step, the South is moving on, a new generation is speaking up for equality, fraternity, and liberty for all, for every citizen. So I have stepped up and put the Confederate flag in the same corner as the Nazi flag. Much less courage than Ken showed so many ago, but it is the right thing to do. I have seen too much with my own eyes.

Lastly, why did Joe come from a different culture? He was born in the US, lived all his life in the US, breathed American air, drank American water. Well, it is logical and rational. He and others of darker skin were not permitted to be Americans. They could not live in our culture, eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, drink from our water fountains, be on our radio and TV programs, except as servants and jesters. Were I treated thus, I would develop my own culture too, my own way of speaking, my own connections. Just as Yiddish and Jewish cultures in Europe developed.

Then because they are “different” they can be rejected, singled out, and the consequences follow.

No, we must put a stop to it. The time is ripe, the iron is hot, and justice is speaking.

Annie Platoff on the air

Flag scholar and NAVA vice president Annie Platoff was on the Pacifica radio network yesterday discussing vexillology, the Confederate flag, roots of people’s attachment to flags, the Apollo flags on the moon, and Russian and Ukrainian flags.  She was a guest on Brad Friedman’s “BradCast” at bradblog.com/?p=11241.  (Skip 8:40 into the broadcast to hear the flag segment.)

Annie Platoff
Annie Platoff