The South battles with history as Confederate heritage scrutinized after Charlottesville

Media outlets have reported recently that consumer demand for the Confederate battle flag has increased considerably in the two weeks following the contentious and violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.

Similar to the increase in gun purchases after the 2008 election of now-former President Obama, the owners of three retail stores in Georgia, Alabama and Pennsylvania, respectively, say orders for the “rebel flag” have jumped to as much as four times the average rate of sale.

For example, Hunstville’s Alabama Flag & Banner owner Belinda Kennedy said she sold over 150 Confederate flags in a single-day last week at a store that only sells approximately 600–800 a year on average.

Similarly, the owner of Dixie Outfitters in Odum, Ga., Dewey Barber, told UK-based news agency Reuters that Confederate flag sales at his store have also increased four-fold at a location which fills up to 15,000 orders per year.

“(The Confederate flag is) not going away,” Barber said. “They can take down monuments, they can ban this and that, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re celebrating our heritage.”

Despite the recent surge, sales of the Southern flag have likely declined overall in the past two years due to major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, eBay and Sears pulling the item from their inventories following the mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, when a photograph of perpetrator Dylan Roof posing with the iconic Confederate symbol was widely-publicized.

Despite the flag’s modern association with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan that showed up in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, Alabama’s Kennedy says Confederate symbols represent something different to those with relatives who fought for the South in the Civil War.

“I think there is a bigger racial divide in our country than what we’ve had in many years,” she said. “I think a lot of it is (because) we’re trying to sanitize history. You’ve got white supremacists, but then you’ve got people like me who are history buffs, pushing back and saying, don’t change history.”

Kennedy went on to say that that it “should be a crime” to use the flag as a symbol of hate, “because that’s not what the flag is about. But that’s what makes people so vehemently, adamantly opposed to the flag.”

In spite of those with an attachment to Confederate history, larger cities across the South have begun to move or take-down statues and monuments related to the rebel cause after Charlottesville.

In 2017 alone, the municipalities of New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Tampa and Gainsville, Fla., Durham, N.C., Austin, Texas, and Lexington, Ky., have taken Confederate symbols off of public property.

Despite the attempted cleansing of Civil War history in the new urban South, however, Confederate monuments are now being erected on private land in rural areas of states like North Carolina, Alabama and Texas.

In Bentonville, N.C., for example, a statue was built of Confederate general Joseph Johnston in 2010 on a historic Civil War battlefield, while a large 13-column ring structure in Orange, Texas, representing the 11 states that seceded from the Union, plus the border states of Kentucky and Missouri, was completed in 2015.

According to W. Fitzhugh Brundage, head of the the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill history department, the Tar Heel State has seen 20 new Confederate memorials built since 2000, as many as were put up between 1940–1990.

 

[Reuters] [AL.com] [CNN] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy Deviant Art]