On July 10, South Carolina state troopers ceremonially lowered the Confederate battle flag — a historic but deeply divisive banner of the American Civil War — from a pole outside the Statehouse for permanent retirement in a museum. The push came after Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old white supremacist who massacred nine African Americans at a black church in Charleston on June 17, was seen in pictures holding Confederate flags.
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During the Civil War (1861-1865), the military and government of the secessionist, pro-slavery American South flew several styles of Confederate battle flags and national flags. What became the lasting symbol of the rebel South — now known as the ‘Confederate flag’ — is a rectangular version of the Confederate Army battle flag, a star-studded blue ‘X’ on a red field. This version, flown by Gen Robert E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, is used to honour the Confederate war dead, and seen by many whites as a symbol of Southern and ancestral pride.
Parts of the flag’s design were incorporated into state flags of Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, over the protests of African American civil rights groups who viewed it as a symbol of a brutal past. The flag has flown over several Southern cities, and has been adopted by the Ku Klux Klan.
The flag was raised in the South Carolina House of Representatives chambers in 1938, and over the Statehouse in 1961, to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War. After years of campaigning by opponents, it was moved, in 2000, from the Statehouse dome to a pole at the base of the Confederate monument on the Statehouse grounds.
A backlash has, however begun. An 8-mile, 1,500-vehicle,‘Florida Southern Pride Ride’ parade was taken out to show support for the Confederate flag in Florida on Sunday. And commentators have underlined that notwithstanding the symbolism, discrimination and inequality remain widespread in the US. — AP