Unravelling the Confederate Flag

A couple of weeks ago groups from a number of Southern states burned Confederate flags as part of an art project organized by artist John Sims. In my post on the event I stated that I did not think that burning Confederate flags did much of anything beyond provoking the usual suspects. I stand by that assessment.

Today I came across a much more creative and thought provoking project. Sonya Clark, who is unravelling a Confederate flag to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The video below is a short interview with Clark. I completely agree with her explanation of why some people go out of their way to distinguish between different types of Confederate flags. What do you think?

[Uploaded to YouTube on June 3, 2015]

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

13 comments… add one
  • Michael Williams Jun 13, 2015 @ 23:24

    Well spoken Mr. Bearden.

    I have always been taken aback whenever folks like this attack the flag but show little or no knowledge about the flag they attack so much.

    And just food for thought the second pattern navy jack’s saint Andrew’s cross was light blue not dark blue so this would make the flag in the video the 1864 Army of Tennessee battle flag.


    • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2015 @ 1:02

      I have always been taken aback whenever folks like this attack the flag but show little or no knowledge about the flag they attack so much.

      From what I’ve seen, historical knowledge is not a pre-requisite for attacking or defending Confederate symbols.

  • Earl Williamson, RN Jun 9, 2015 @ 9:22

    Wonderful and powerful imagery, particularly effective as it relates to the END of war (rather than the war itself) and suggests the transitions and directions that lead forward in time from that point. I love that it takes the conventional symbology of the flag and reinterprets it not as an object of display but an element in action and movement. … I think art has a way of informing memory and see this as an effective example of that.

  • Leo Jun 8, 2015 @ 6:57

    I find the work very thought provoking. By physically weaving “black hair” into the fabric of a Confederate flag, the artist appears to be stating, at least to me, that black history and culture are permanently interwoven into the history and culture the South, the Confederacy, and the nation. It is imposable to separate the slave from history, and it is a shot at lost cause mythology.

    However, the hair also makes the pattern of the American flag overlaying the Confederate flag. I see this as a claim to the rights that come with citizenship. It is a statement of freedom over slavery and Jim Crow. She is saying we are here and we are Americans too.

    • Leo Jun 9, 2015 @ 3:53

      She has more than one work dealing with the image of the Confederate flag. The unraveling project is interesting and the aspect involving assistance from a viewer or other person, who happens to be white in the video, is especially fascinating. The imagery of a black and white person unraveling the past together is powerful symbolism. However, I find the work involving black hair interwoven into the fabric of the flag her most powerful work on the subject.

  • Leo Jun 8, 2015 @ 6:18

    I can only assume the message being conveyed by the artist is lost to Billy or he is trying to change the subject because he is uncomfortable with what is being expressed.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 8, 2015 @ 6:21

      Probably a little of both. What Bearden doesn’t understand is that the artist is not attacking anyone. She has every right to interpret this particular symbol. It does not belong to Bearden or anyone else for that matter.

    • Andy Hall Jun 8, 2015 @ 8:31

      Billy’s response is standard heritage boilerplate — point out that the speaker missed some minutiae about the Confederate flag (square vs. rectangular, referring to the ANV Battle Flag as the “Stars and Bars,” national flag vs. military flag, etc.) — and then announce loudly that the speaker is ignorant about the history of the flag and therefore unworthy of further consideration. It’s simply deflection, a way to rationalize ignoring the actual substance of what the speaker said.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 8, 2015 @ 8:33

        It reinforces the very point she was making. Well done, Billy.

  • Billy Bearden Jun 7, 2015 @ 4:31

    the three national flags of the confederacy were all rectangles. the flag she is unravelling is either a army of Tennessee pattern battle flag or a second pattern Naval Jack. the square pattern she incorrectly mentions was the army of northern Virginia Style.

    I am also questioning not only her lack of historical knowledge about what she is attacking but that in her agenda to attack she includes things like police brutality and arrests of blacks none of which have anything to do with the Confederate soldier

  • mischling2nd Jun 6, 2015 @ 17:49

    I wonder if any legislators will propose outlawing the burning of their sacred symbol.

  • Christopher Shelley Jun 6, 2015 @ 14:52

    Much better than burning. This is a much more powerful (and non-violent) symbol.

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