Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Tale of Four Flags


I've been traveling and haven't blogged lately, but being home now, the subject of the Confederate Flag has me weighing in -- from an historical perspective and a personal up-close look at the changes made in one state's flag.

When I was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a movement initiated by the NAACP grew to change Georgia's flag that had been flying from 1956 to 2001.

Official State Flag of Georgia 1956-2001

Seen below is the earlier flag that had been redesigned to incorporate the Southern Cross, misnamed the Confederate Battle Flag, after a controversial ruling known as Brown vs. Board of Education.

1920-1956








With the pressure building on the Georgia General Assembly, flag activists' efforts succeeded in 2001 and Governor Roy Barnes pushed through a design that, though continuing to depict the Southern Cross, reduced it prominence. 

2001-2003
This move angered both sides of the Southern Cross debate, and contributed to Barnes's defeat in the next election. 






The following year, amidst dwindling demands for the return of the Southern Cross version, the Georgia General Assembly had the flag redesigned again, adopting a compromise. The design would use the first Flag of the Confederacy called the Stars and Bars with a simplified version of the state seal within the circle of the 13 stars on the flag's canton. That, today, is Georgia's flag.


Georgia flag 2003-Present
First Confederate Flag 1861
The true Stars and Bars


About the Southern Cross also known as the St. Andrews Cross and the Confederate Battle Flag: Although the Southern Cross was incorporated in a second and third Confederate Flag during the War Between the States, it was never approved by the Confederate Congress as a stand-alone "Battle Flag" of the Confederacy. It began life as the Battle Flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. It is today sometimes called the Stars and Bars, but the true Stars and Bars was the flag of 1861, which was changed in 1863 because it resembled the U. S. Stars and Stripes on the battlefield.

Called the Stainless Banner, it was the official Confederate Flag in 1865.


It all began: In December 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union just months after Abraham Lincoln, from the anti-slavery Republican Party, was elected president. In April 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C.

Ten other states would eventually follow South Carolina in secession, forming the Confederate States of America. However, of the three flags the Confederacy would go on to adopt, none are the Southern Cross "Battle Flag" that is traditionally recognized today. Southern political scientists James Michael Martinez, William Donald Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su write:
The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans' groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election




Georgia's Four Flag since 1920.
Respectfully,

Gerrie Ferris Finger