Clyburn Op-Ed: The Confederate 'battle flag' should come down from the statehouse

Jun 20, 2015

The tragedy that occurred Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C., has engendered many personal emotions about race and reopened a conversation about a controversial and divisive symbol. Let us begin with several little-known but well-documented facts about that flag currently flying in front of the statehouse. It is not the Confederate flag. It is the Confederate “battle flag.”

Second, the version of that flag that flew on the statehouse dome from 1962 until 2000 was an elongated version of the battle flag and is also known as the “Tennessee flag.” In fact, it is the flag that Nathan Bedford Forrest used as a rallying symbol when he founded the Ku Klux Klan, and was popularized by that iconic movie, “Gone With the Wind.”

The real Confederate flag commonly known as the “Stars and Bars” contained a circle of 13 stars and three bars. For years, advocates tried to get the “battle flag” adopted as an official symbol but it was always rejected, even by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Another little-known fact is that most South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War never fought under that flag. Many fought under the Citadel Flag which was similar to our current flag, but with a red rather than blue field, and a white crescent and palmetto tree.

So this notion that thousands of South Carolinians fought and died under that flag flying in front of the statehouse is a myth. Our legislators would do themselves and our state great proud if they would furl the “battle flag,” place it in a museum so all South Carolinians can become unified around symbols in which all of us are invested and to which all of us can pledge allegiance.