Has the Face of Confederate Heritage Changed in the Past 50 Years?

The most common image of Americans asserting their pride in Confederate heritage over the past few weeks has been a parade of pick-up trucks decked out in flags. Some of these groups appear to have intentionally chosen routes through predominantly African American neighborhoods. We are told that these gatherings have nothing to do with race: Heritage, Not Hate.

Ocala, Florida

Ocala, Florida


Petersburg, Virginia

Petersburg, Virginia

We’ve been here before. The vehicles have changed, but not much else.

This photograph was taken in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

September 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, USA --- Teenagers wave signs and confederate flags from their car during the fight over desegregating Birmingham's public schools. --- Image by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS

Image by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS

I was unable to identify this one, but once again the message is clear.


Image by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS

The other day I came across this Facebook status update from one of my friends.

Facebook Status Update: July 2015

Facebook Status Update: July 2015

Sound advice.

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!

19 comments… add one
  • Buck Buchanan Jul 30, 2015 @ 9:33

    The picture taken in Petersburg, Virginia was on Crater Road…about 300 yards from where I work.

    I notice another common feature amongst the vehicles in the picture besides the flying of the Confederate Rag….

    They also are sporting those idiotic Teabagger Don’t Tread on Me plates.

    Get off the PUBLIC highway of you don’t like paying taxes.

    • Jimmy Dick Jul 30, 2015 @ 13:06

      I think it is very funny that these people are too lazy to make their own symbols and instead have to steal from the past. It just reflects their lame beliefs are too weak to stand on their own so they must steal symbols to try to show legitimacy for their views. The real patriots of the past would kick these bums in the butt. The men who went to war under the Gadsen flag went to war over the issue of taxation without representation. They paid higher taxes as a result of their actions and did so knowing that they would pay higher taxes.

      Just more evidence that the heritage and teabagger crowds don’t know history.

  • London John Jul 28, 2015 @ 1:34

    It is quite clear that the CBF is the flag of racists. But they’d still be racists without the CBF. What if they didn’t have their own flag? Maybe they’d have adopted the Stars and Stripes.
    I thought of this because of the unfortunate use of the Union Jack* by British racists, in various very nasty parties called the National Front, the British National Party, the English Defence League, etc. Their display of the Union Jack was at times so pervasive that legitimate use of the flag caused uneasiness. Better if they have their own flag, I think. I believe there is generally less display of the national flag in Britain than in the US, so maybe the racists couldn’t come so close to monopolising it in the US.
    * I know the correct name for the British national flag is the “Union Flag”, not the “Union Jack”, but I thought that could be a bit confusing on a blog about the ACW.

  • Michael Jul 27, 2015 @ 16:02

    So the only reason half a million men fought was because of slavery and white power while the other half of the equation fought for their black brothers and sisters well being?? Do you really have such a low opinion of the entire South(many blacks included). I served as a Marine for 14 years. I did NOT agree with most of anything our government did and yet I still had to do my duty. It is what soldiers do. Do not assume the goals of the government and it’s power elite have anything remotely concerning to do with the common foot soldier. I do not agree with 90% of what the Confederate government stated as reasons for secession. I will not however, turn my back on the men that answered the call of their state and their country. They were no more wrong than the American soldiers that fought into Mexico, or against the Native Americans. Vietnam was a hated war and most of the vets were scorned as they returned. We have come to accept them now as heroes. How are they any different than Confederate soldiers? Treason? Hardly, or they would not have been granted pensions…..

    • Kevin Levin Jul 27, 2015 @ 16:04

      Please go back and re-read my comment.

      • Michael Jul 28, 2015 @ 17:09

        I did, now please re-read mine.

        To collectively lump soldiers in with the desires of the government that controls them is naive. They answered a call from their nation and state to defend it. Many did not agree with the founding principles for which the power elite deemed secession necessary. They did , however, feel it necessary to defend their homes.

        I just do not see how you can throw this big blanket over all the troops in the Confederacy and infer they were all slave wanting, white supremacists. Then on the other hand assume all Union soldiers were abolitionist, angels of mercy just looking to preserve the all might U.S.. Regardless of how many references or documents you might come across to “prove” your version, reality does not work that way.

        If you have ever served in the military, you would know that we don’t always agree with what our leaders are doing. That does not mean we do not do as we are instructed and trained to do.

        As far as the battle flag goes, the hatred being directed towards it is not generated from anything Confederate. It is about the civil rights movements and the atrocities committed after the civil war. The KKK commandeered the battle flag, the U.S. flag, and the christian flag. All this was done while a complacent nation sat by and endorsed segregation. It is ironic that we put all the blame of 100+ years of segregation on a few southern states while in reality it was a national pandemic. Maybe if we could talk a little more honestly about our national sins instead of scapegoating and blaming dead people we might actually be able to make some actual progress.

        • Kevin Levin Jul 29, 2015 @ 1:25

          I just do not see how you can throw this big blanket over all the troops in the Confederacy and infer they were all slave wanting, white supremacists.

          Once again, I suggest you re-read my post. You are putting words in my mouth.

          Then on the other hand assume all Union soldiers were abolitionist, angels of mercy just looking to preserve the all might U.S.

          These are your words, not mine. I never suggested it and it has nothing to do with this post.

          I am ending this comment thread since you can’t bother to respond to what was stated. Thank you.

    • Jimmy Dick Jul 27, 2015 @ 17:27

      It is not the entire South that is at question here. It is only certain elements of the United States itself that seem to think that racism is not a problem. There was no united South in 1861 nor is there one today.

      As for why men fought, that is not the point. Using 21st century values to judge the actions of those soldiers in 1861 is a mistake and one historians point out a lot. Waving a CBF from a pickup truck while driving around town does not honor the confederate soldier one iota. It does absolutely nothing to explain what the Civil War was about.

      Pull over the driver of said pickup and ask him why the Civil War happened. I’m willing to bet you will not get slavery as the answer. At that point the driver is either racist or ignorant or maybe both. In any event he is not honoring the soldiers because if he was he would know they fought to support slavery.

      You want to honor the confederate soldier? Fly the national flag of the confederacy at the grave sites of the deceased soldiers. That way you honor him, not his cause. Any other waving of the flag other than for historical purposes such as reenactments is just ignorance and racism.

      • Annette Jackson Jul 28, 2015 @ 0:00

        There are some who are in denial that racism is a problem, some in the SCV who really believe they are just honoring dead soldiers, and then there are the out and out racists. When Channel 12’s Curt Autry invited people to comment on Facebook about the flaggers, the racism was not hidden….

      • Msb Jul 28, 2015 @ 12:50

        Well said, Jimmy.

      • Michael Jul 28, 2015 @ 13:24

        Pull me over in my pickup Jimmy, you will see I am not ignorant nor am I racist. Half a million people did not just fight for slavery. Some did. Some that fought on the North still held their slaves. Some in the South abhorred slavery. It is not a simple topic so please stop applying simple logic and modern day morality to an issue 150 years in the past.

        Simply put, If I can not honor some of the good that my ancestors did for this country despite their flaws, than really who in this nation can?

        • Jimmy Dick Jul 28, 2015 @ 16:39

          They didn’t do any good for the United States of America under the CBF. It was the flag of men who fought for slavery. It was the flag of men who committed treason against the lawful government of the United States of America.

          Yes, it is that bloody simple whether you want to admit it or not. Whether they liked slavery or not, those men knew they were supporting it by fighting under that flag.

          You fly that flag and you are either racist or ignorant. It is your choice.

          Half a million people fought a war that was started over slavery. They said so. Read the primary sources.

  • Michael Jul 27, 2015 @ 15:19

    Try asking some of these flaggers you speak about. I do not believe in the Lost Cause nor do I believe the Northern war to free blacks. Somewhere in the middle is the truth and I will not stop defending the common veteran that did what he was told to do for his country and state. Was it a just and righteous cause? Not many wars actually fought by the United States have been and yet we do not vilify the soldiers. Why do so now? Because we have been programed to see a symbol and associate it with nothing at all remotely to do with the war. The hatred and anger of the civil rights movement is an American problem, not a Confederate one. Making the CSA the scapegoat for our own country’s dirty secret of segregation will not solve anything. It actually perpetuates the issue…..

    • Kevin Levin Jul 27, 2015 @ 15:24

      Because we have been programed to see a symbol and associate it with nothing at all remotely to do with the war

      If you mean ‘associated’ with a war to preserve slavery and white supremacy well then it certainly was. The Confederate army functioned as the military arm of a government that openly stated its goals without reservation. Regardless of why they were in the army, every Confederate soldier fought to bring about these stated goals.

    • Kristoffer Jul 28, 2015 @ 6:21

      “I do not believe in the Lost Cause nor do I believe the Northern war to free blacks. Somewhere in the middle is the truth”

      Middle ground fallacy.

      • Michael Jul 28, 2015 @ 13:03

        “Middle ground fallacy”? How is attempting to find the truth amidst all the “facts” and “point of views” a fallacy? Please explain that. So if you don’t choose one side or the other you are never right? Come on, you are obviously part of the problem and it is no wonder we can not make any progress in so far as race is concerned because people like you are not willing to meet in the middle.

  • Annette Jackson Jul 27, 2015 @ 14:41

    You are absolutely correct. I would be willing to bet very few of these flaggers have any concept of the events leading up to the war, the war itself, or reconstruction….or any knowledge that is anything other than the old tired Lost Cause. There was absolutely no reason from them to parade through Petersburg except to provoke.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Jul 27, 2015 @ 12:56
    • Kevin Levin Jul 27, 2015 @ 13:14

      I saw it. I’ve seen nothing in these flag rallies and parades that says much of anything about the history of the Confederacy and the Confederate soldiers. Most of what I’ve seen is little more than reactionary politics.

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