The Rebel Flag and Its Loss As a Symbol of White Supremacy

When people talk about the rebel flags today, most assume it’s a reference to the Confederate flag. But in fact, the Confederate flag — or what is now commonly known as the “Confederate battle flag” — never historically represented the whole country’s breakaway states, nor was it even officially recognized as the national flag of the Confederacy.

It became a common symbol of the South, and it was closely associated with secessionist sentiments and 20th-century white supremacy groups. A handful of former Confederate states opted to fly it alongside the American flag atop or near their state capitols, and it was used by groups like the Dixiecrats, who ran South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond for president in 1948 on a platform of states’ rights and white supremacy.

Rebel Flags: Exploring Symbolism and Controversy”

But as civil rights movements gained momentum in the 1960s, it became increasingly clear that the battle flag symbolized more than just the re-imposition of slavery. And the fight over its meaning has never stopped.

Now, as the Civil War centennial draws to a close, the rebel flag is rapidly disappearing from public places like cemeteries and battlefields. It’s also losing its status as a popular culture icon. In the 1970s, movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard featured trucks, motorcycles and other “good ol’ boys” flying the flag on their bumpers. And, despite its long association with the Ku Klux Klan, the rebel flag is no longer seen as a symbol of white supremacy by the mainstream media.

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