A lasting battle, a loser’s flag, and a small victory

A symbolic gesture can go a long way. Congratulations to South Carolina for taking a big step in the direction of a modern era. The confederate flag is coming down from the state’s capital building on Friday, July 10th, 20015, more than 54 years after it was raised among protests.

Confederate-reenactors
Confederate reenactors, 1961

In 1961, confederates throughout the South commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in 1862.

In South Carolina, the Civil War centennial involved fireworks, a parade, a dramatic  reenactment, and the hoisting of the confederate flag over the state building and Fort Sumter. On April 21, 1961, The Evening Star (Washington, DC) reported, “The bombardment of Fort Sumter actually began at 4:30 am, April 12, 1861. The 100th anniversary of that moment was marked by the hoisting of a Confederate flag on Fort Sumter by a stealthy band which included ‘several members of the South Carolina General Assembly and prominent Charlestonians.'”

Less than 3 hours later, A Park Service employee removed the flag immediately after seeing it. The racial tensions that surrounded the flag, the battle reenactment, and the celebration of the confederacy were immediately felt, even threatening to disrupt the event.

Confederates raise the flag
Evening Star (Washington, DC), April 13, 1961

Raising the confederate flag in 1961 was significant symbolism of continued rebellion against a civilized and equal South. Senator Olin Johnston may have clarified the meaning most clearly in his “championing” of the confederacy cause in 1961: “The ideological and economic battle has been raging ever since [the Civil War]. It will go on for generations to come because the same forces which set reconstruction upon us and which held us back financially, industrially, and in nearly every way for more than 60 years following the Civil War would like to again settle down upon us.”

As Johnston promised, the battle of the confederates against everyone else has continued to rage on, with that flag standing strong behind them.

So today, we celebrate a small victory in that longstanding battle. Perhaps with their flag no longer flying high in South Carolina, the confederates will be willing to admit that their war has been lost – symbolically, literally, finally.

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