Raleigh, NC – A Confederate battle flag displayed inside the old North Carolina State Capitol is to be removed following an outcry from civil rights leaders. The Confederate flag coming down was hung there to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
The flag was raised in the House chamber last week (see picture below), and officials intended to leave it on display until April 2015, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of federal troops in Raleigh. However, an announcement on Friday confirmed the flag had been removed.
Officials explained that the battle flag was intended to be part of a historical display replicating how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. Keith Hardison, the North Carolina state historic sites director, argued that removing the flag would equate to “censoring history,” and that critics should view the presentation of the flag in its historical context. Speaking to The Associated Press on Thursday, he said:
“Our goal is not to create issues. Our goal is to help people understand issues of the past. If you refuse to put something that someone might object to or have a concern with in the exhibit, then you are basically censoring history.”
Hardison added that the choice to display the flag was based on the diary of a North Carolina woman who visited the Capitol in 1863. He continued:
“I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to recreate this? I think we were all thinking along the same vein. … The Capitol is both a working seat of government, in that the governor and his staff has his office there. But it is also a museum.”
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Reverend William Barber strongly disagreed with Hardison’s view. When shown a photograph of the flag by The Associated Press, a shocked Barber remarked:
“He is right that it has a historical context. But what is that history? The history of racism. The history of lynchings. The history of death. The history of slavery. If you say that shouldn’t be offensive, then either you don’t know the history or you are denying the history.”
The hanging of the Confederate battle flag at state government buildings has long been a hot potato issue. The NAACP has urged its members to boycott South Carolina for as long as the state continues to display the flag on State House grounds. Conversely, the group Sons of Confederate Veterans contends the flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate.
David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina, said the interpretation of the flag depended greatly on the perspective of each individual:
“The history of the Confederate battle flag, how it was designed and formulated, how it has been used through the years, clearly states that it is a flag of white supremacy. I know current Sons of Confederate Veterans would dispute that, saying ‘Hey, I’m not a racist.’ But the fact remains that the battle flag was used by a country that had as its foundation the protection and extension of human bondage.”
How do you feel about North Carolina’s Confederate flag coming down? Is this censoring history, or should a flag with such connotations remain out of sight? Sound off in the comments!