(POLL) Should Alabama continue to display the Confederate battle flag on state property?
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After the deaths of nine African Americans in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the public display of the battle flag of the Confederacy has come into question.
The flag, currently flying outside of the South Carolina State House, will likely be taken down after many across the country have decried it as a symbol of racism and hate. Nikki Haley, the state’s Republican governor, said in a press conference Monday morning “My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.”
But it is not just South Carolina that has reconsidered the use of the flag. Mississippi, the only state in the union to explicitly depict the symbol on its current state banner, has also begun to challenge the place it has in official contexts.
“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” said Republican State House Speaker Phillip Gunn in a statement Monday. “As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”
Even Virginia, the home of the former Confederacy’s capitol, has decided to begin phasing public use out. “Even its display on state issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people,” Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe said to Politico.
So where does that put Alabama? The State displays the flag in numerous locations, particularly in the capital city of Montgomery. The most notable display is on the Confederate War Memorial Monument, where the battle flag flies next to the numerous other Confederate flags. The 88-foot Alabama Confederate Monument on Montgomery’s Capitol Hill commemorates the 122,000 Alabamians who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The monument was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony on December 7, 1898 and the flags have flown ever since.
Montgomery is also home to the First White House of the Confederacy, where the first national flag, not the embattled rebel flag, flies. The many national flags of the Confederacy, which go unrecognized by most Americans, do not typically draw ire. It is the battle flag, which was adopted as a symbol of Lost Cause ideology and the Segregationist movement, that draws criticism for being a symbol of oppression.
The battle flag can also be found in the Old House Chamber of the Capitol building, in a city that served as the first Capitol of the CSA. The display would be limited to that historical context except that the Governor often signs bills of great importance there, where he is photographed by members of statewide media. As recently as May of this year, when Governor Bentley signed a landmark Prison Reform Bill, the Confederate battle flag stands right next to the Alabama state flag behind where the governor sits.
The flag makes another appearance on the official seal of the governor, in the bottom right hand corner next to the British Union Jack. The seal features a depiction of the flag of every nation that had control over the state for any period of time.
Given these revelations, Yellowhammer reached out to Governor Bentley on the issue and his office said that they are currently “working to gather some information about the flag’s presence at the State Capitol” and have no comment at the time.
With all of this in mind, please participate in our unscientific poll. Should Alabama continue to display the Confederate battle flag or other Confederate flags on state property?