The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 322
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Florida, 2000. Pp. xii+336. Illustrations and tables, preface, contributors, in-
dex. ISBN 0-8131-1758-0. $49.95, cloth.)
This volume presents eleven articles on the controversy over public display of
"Confederate symbols," including the "battle flag," statues, and monuments. The
articles range from a scholarly essay on the evolution of the battle flag to a 1991
Yale Law Journal article advancing novel constitutional arguments for a judicial
ban on state-sponsored Confederate symbols. Five chapters were written by the
editors, whose twenty-two-page introduction seeks to bring historical perspective
to the contributors' widely divergent viewpoints.
Published in 2ooo, this book incorporates new work as well as academic jour-
nal articles from the 199os. As Southerners continue to argue about Confeder-
ate symbols, several articles have already been overtaken by events, including
three chapters recounting a decade of legislative and judicial skirmishing over
Georgia's 1956 vintage state flag. While that version featured a small state seal
opposite a prominent Confederate battle flag, the new flag approved by the
Georgia legislature in February 2001 reduces the Confederate banner to one of
several "mini-flags." The recent vote to relocate the battle flag from South Car-
olina's Capitol dome to a monument on the grounds similarly dates another ar-
Given the inherent difficulty of mixing historical research with commentary
on fast-changing events, the book strikes a fair balance, with some overemphasis
on the Georgia controversy. Of particular historical value is John M. Coski's
thoroughly researched and footnoted historical essay on the battle flag, which
was adopted by Confederate armies when their official "Stars and Bars" banner
proved hard to distinguish in the smoke of First Manassas from the Union's
"Stars and Stripes." That battle flag (a blue Saint Andrew's cross with thirteen
white stars, set against a square or rectangular field of red) became recognized
as "the" Confederate flag only in the twentieth century.
As several contributors point out, the "meaning" of the battle flag has evolved
dramatically since Appomatox. The flag came to represent segregationist politics
only after it was embraced by the "Dixiecrat" campaign of 1948. In the 1960s,
the battle flag was appropriated by "white backlash" groups, and today it is often
displayed by neo-Nazi and Aryan supremacy groups.
The editors struggle to make sense of a controversy fueled by myth and misin-
formation. They acknowledge the African American's genuine resentment of
Confederate symbols as reminders of slavery, as well as the traditionalist's desire
to preserve emblems of their proud Southern heritage. Editor/author Martinez
in particular draws important historical distinctions: raising the battle flag in
1956 in defiance of Brown v. Board of Education was not the historical equivalent
of raising a granite memorial to the Confederate dead after the war. Demands to
demolish venerable monuments erected by widows of Lee's foot soldiers call to
mind Taliban "idol-smashing" more than racial sensitivity.
The book ultimately suggests that the once proud battle flag-unlike other
Confederate symbols-has become tainted by long association with racist
groups. To the chagrin of Southern traditionalists, fringe groups "captured" the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/374/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.