Tag Archives: Sons of Confederate Veterans

No Confederate License Plates in Texas

Palestine, Texas

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled earlier today that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles did not violate the First Amendment when it denied an application by the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans for customized plates that depicted the Confederate flag.  Here are a few excerpts from the judge’s ruling.

“The issue before the court is this: does the First Amendment require a state government to place the Confederate battle flag on customized, special license plates at the request of a nonprofit organization which has otherwise complied with state rules governing issuance of such plates?” Sparks wrote.  He determined that the answer is no, not because specialty license plates constitute government speech, as the board claimed, but because the plates constitute a nonpublic forum.  He further found that the content of the SCV license plates drove the board’s decision, rather than the group’s viewpoint.

“The SCV repeatedly argues the fact the Buffalo Soldiers plate was approved indicates SCV was subjected to viewpoint discrimination,” Sparks wrote in the 47-page order. “SCV speculates Native Americans would be offended by the Buffalo Soldiers plate, because of the role played by African-American troops in the frontier wars of the nineteenth century. However, the record does not support this assertion: in contrast to the chorus of negative public comments raised against the SCV’s plate, there appears to have been no significant objection to the Buffalo Soldiers plate, rendering SCV’s assertion the Buffalo Soldiers plate is equally derogatory at best purely speculative.”

Sparks noted that, unlike the SCV plates, the Buffalo Soldiers plates lack an “inflammatory symbol comparable to the Confederate battle flag.”  The judge also noted that the group could turn to state lawmakers to get its license plates approved.  “Although suggesting a petitioner for judicial relief should look to the legislative branch for assistance is usually the practical equivalent of there being no relief available, here the Texas Legislature can and frequently has approved a variety of plates — including controversial plates, such as ‘Choose Life’ — by direct legislative action,” Sparks states.

The order concludes: “It is a sad fact the Confederate battle flag has been co-opted by odious groups as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. There is no reason to doubt the SCV and its members are entirely heartfelt in their condemnation of this misuse. It is to be hoped the passage of time, and efforts such as the SCV’s resolution, will eventually remove a blight from the flag under which feats of great heroism and fortitude were accomplished. All the traditional avenues of public discourse are open to those who would fully redeem the battle flag. Nevertheless, the state of Texas has chosen to abstain from this debate, and the First Amendment does not require it to open up state-issued license plates as an additional forum in which to contest the flag’s meaning.”

I find the judge’s thoughts re: the flag’s symbolism to be very strange.  How exactly do you “remove a blight” from a flag that was used between 1861- and 1865 to establish a nation built on slavery and later in the twentieth century as a visible symbol for the maintenance of the racial status quo?  The Confederate flag doesn’t need to be “redeemed” from anything.  What it deserves is a proper interpretation in a place that fosters serious reflection.

Oh well, I guess the Texas SCV can at least fall back on their recent victory in Palestine.  Where is Palestine, you ask?

Brad Paisley Meet Leslie Barris

So, in addition to having trouble accessing my blog yesterday the news feed that I use to track stories related to Civil War memory is clogged with articles about the Brad Paisley – LL Cool J controversy.  I’m not sure which is worse.  I don’t have anything insightful to say about the song other than that the music and lyrics are both the work of amateurs.  To be honest, it seems to be much to do about nothing.

On the other hand, I got nothing but props for Leslie Harris of Orange, Texas who asked the city council to consider resolutions and ordinances that would block a planned Confederate veterans memorial that includes a flag just off the interstate.  Harris argues that, in fact, this is not a veterans memorial, but a Confederate flag memorial.  She also offers some comments about the appropriateness of publicly acknowledging Confederate History Month and in the process reminds the audience that white Southern attitudes about the Confederate past are complex.

Number of Black Confederates Will Increase in April

Fold3

How do I know this?  Fold3 is offering free access to all of its Confederate records during the month of April, which happens to be Confederate History Month.  Well, it’s CHM in the few places that still acknowledge it.  Check out the press release from the Georgia Division SCV.

So much is portrayed by Hollywood today that Georgia and the South were evil; when, in reality, the South was the most peaceful, rural, and Christian part of America before war and Reconstruction destroyed the pastoral way of life here. April gives us a chance to celebrate the positive things about our Southern heritage and culture, as well as a chance to learn from the political dangers that once led to a deep division in America over the role of the federal government in people’s individual lives.

yada…yada…yada.

I think it’s great that Fold3 is making it possible for ‘everyone t0 be his or her own historian.’ That said, I am also thankful that hospitals don’t invite the general public into their operating rooms to give surgery a try.  Now get in there and find me some black Confederate soldiers for my book.

Think I Might Join Sons of Confederate Veterans

sons of confederate veteransIn his report to the SCV’s National Leadership Conference Adjutant-in-Chief Steve Ritchie noted the following:

Adjutant Ritchie then announced what he claimed would be a controversial fact, that there is no national constitutional requirement for proof of lineage/descent from a Confederate veteran for membership in the SCV.  The membership packet required at national SCV headquarters includes a completed application, a check and preferably a type written summary of the applicants information but no paperwork for descent documentation is required by national headquarters.  Membership records are kept as hardcopies at SCV National headquarters.  SCV National does no genealogy verification.  The application requires camp officer signatures to substantiate membership satisfaction and camp requirements vary.  Compiled service records are sometimes illegible or inaccurate and many were lost during the War especially when towns were burned and razed such as in Sherman’s march.  Additional resources include the American Civil War Research database and Broadfoot’s records of Confederate veterans.  UCV and pension records are additional resources.  He highlighted that how an ancestor was separated or location of his burial may be unknown and don’t get hung up on those details when completing the application.

You have to wonder why this point was raised and whether it will lead to changes in recruitment policy on the local level.  Dispensing with the lineage requirement in what is clearly the most vocal Confederate heritage organization would certainly make it easier to fill the ranks and even branch out to welcome the descendants of all those loyal black soldiers, who we can’t quite match up with wartime records.  Apparently, we can blame Sherman for the lack of records.  At the same time it could undercut the organization’s own claims to authority based largely on their lineal descent.  We will have to see how this plays out.