Hey Rudy, Is It Just About State’s Rights?

Politics surely makes bad historians of us all.  Take Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani who recently addressed the Alabama State Legislature on flying the Confederate flag atop the state capitol:

"One of the great beauties of the kind of government we have, which is a national, federal government, [is that] on a broad range of issues, we can make different decisions in different parts of the country," the GOP presidential front-runner said after addressing the Alabama Legislature.  "We have different sensitivities and at different times we’re going to come to different decisions, and I think that is best left to the states," Giuliani said.

Perhaps Rudy should have reminded the state legislature about when those Confederate flags were placed atop the state capitols in the South.  In 1956, 82 of 106 southern congressmen signed a Southern Manifesto, denouncing the recent Brown v. Board of Education decision as a "clear abuse of judicial power," and calling for resistance to "forced integration" by "any lawful means."  States took various measures, including banning the NAACP from operating within their borders.  My own state of Virginia took the step of closing the public schools rather than have black and white children learn together.  Finally, as a symbol of defiance, Georgia’s legislature incorporated the Confederate battle flag into its state flag in 1956, and Alabama and South Carolina soon began flying the battle flag over their state capitol buildings.

Hey Rudy, good luck courting those conservative white southerners.

6 comments… add one

  • Jim Apr 11, 2007

    While Guiliani is pandering to select southerners, I can’t think of any professional politician that doesn’t use this strategy for votes. More importantly, while only certain southern states protested Federal authority with a symbol, do you think it a good idea to frame opposition to Brown v. Board of Education decision as only a southern issue when you say, “good luck courting those conservative white southerners”? This may be beyond the scope of your original point, but there was and still is widespread opposition to school integration throughout the country in places like Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1853532).

    Not to be overly critical, but I don’t know if using the word “conservative” is best used to describe anti-integration policies as it could be interpreted as having racist connotations. Nevertheless, I think I know what you mean.

  • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2007

    Of course it would be a mistake to argue that resistance to Brown was a fact only of the South, but Giuliani was in Alabama not Massachusetts. Boston was a hotbead of violence in the early 1970s when the schools were ordered to desegregate. As you should be able to surmise my post was about G’s comments about the Confederate flag and his attempt to frame the issue simply as a matter of state’s rights. I use “conservative” in a political sense. G was not speaking to liberal Democrats in Alabama.

  • Brooks Simpson Apr 11, 2007

    Key question: who are “we”? Rudy ought to know better.

  • Anonymous Apr 11, 2007

    wasn’t 1956 more than 50 years ago?

  • Mark Jones Apr 29, 2007

    Will someone please show me one shread of evidence that the 1956 Georgia State Flag was changed in defience of segregation? If this was true, none of the newspapers back in that time reported it. If a reporter from back in 1956 had only mentioned that the 1956 flag was changed because of defience of segregation, the Atlanta press could have sold a million newspapers!

    I was born in 1935 and I lived in Atlanta during those times. The Georgia State flag pior to 1956 was designed after the 1st National flag of the Confederate Government.

    This is a great site to “understand” the importance of the meaning of knowing (both sides of the coin).

  • Kevin Levin Apr 29, 2007

    Mark, — Thanks for taking the time to write. You are absolutely correct that there is no smoking gun linking the Georgia flag and “Massive Resistance.” That said, historians have written a great deal about the connection. You should check out chapter 12 of John Coski’s _The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem_ (Harvard University Press, 2005). Coski cites, among other sources, Larry Weekley’s “Confederate Flags Waved as House Begins Session,” Richmond Times Dispatch, August 28, 1956.

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