Miseducation and Ignorance Perpetuates an Outdated Hateful Symbol


Quinn Patella, Staff Writer

With its ashes scattered throughout the Melting Pot of the world, remnants of a lost cause haunt the suburban and rural towns of America. A prime example of this flag’s harrowing presence is in our very town itself, Quakertown, with many ripped up flags being hoisted on the sides of houses and painted on cars. The confederate flag and the confederacy flag by proxy, have been subject to an unending debate — which has only intensified with time: is it a symbol of hate or is it a symbol of heritage?

In 2020 YouGovAmerica, an international market research firm was interested in seeing how Americans viewed the confederate flag and managed to get answers from around 34,000 Americans, more than any other survey over the confederate flag. The survey asked one main question: “Do you think the confederate flag represents heritage or hate?” Participants were allowed to answer “I do not know” as a middle ground. This main question was also paired up with questions about the participant’s age, the state in which they lived, and their education. On an overall scale, 41% of 34k Americans believed the flag symbolizes racism, contrasting the 34% of Americans who believed it symbolizes heritage (The other 25% had selected “I do not know”). Focusing on the age of the voters, people who were over 55 tended to vote that it was heritage — while younger people were more likely to vote for the flag being a symbol of racism. The survey showed, most interestingly, out of the eleven non-border states in the confederacy only two viewed the flag more as heritage over racism: these states being Arkansas and Louisiana. However, states like Virginia (which had the most soldiers in the confederacy) had 46 votes for it being racist over 33 votes for heritage. Participants were also more likely to vote for heritage if they lived in rural areas or if they were non-college-educated. States in Mid-America tended to be more likely to believe the flag was heritage over hate with the east-south-central portion of America having the highest density of these votes. The Pacific and New England contrasted this, with 49% of participants in New England viewing the flag as racist. 

Wanting to collect more data, I decided to set up my own survey to solidify data for an age group that I am more familiar with — my generation.  With fifty-six responses, forty-seven viewed the flag as a symbol of hate while two viewed the flag as heritage, and seven remained neutral. Participants were also presented with the ability to explain their answers and this was met with responses of varying degrees of detail. Some stated that the flag made them feel uncomfortable, some believed that when they saw the flag they thought of the “worst possible thing” the owner of the flag could believe, and some simply responded with: “I do not know”. The most prosperous response came from a twenty-two-year-old who stated that “the south seed solely for the purpose of preserving slavery”; they proceeded to back this response up with a direct quote from the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens. Alexander H. Stephens stated on March 21st of 1861 that “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition”. On the other side of the argument, out of the two votes for heritage one was backed up with the argument of the flag representing the south’s “split from a tyrannical government” despite its “implications of racism and slavery”.  The tyrannical government in question was the North, under the lead of Abraham Lincoln. One lingering question remains — how did we get to this point and what caused this backwards belief?


The confederacy reached its peak in 1861, with eleven states leaving the union the year prior. Based on population, the confederacy had nine million people in its states. However, three and a half million of these people were not even seen as citizens — they were enslaved and forced to be in the south, and  they did not have a choice in this. The confederacy, as history tells, fell in 1865 and was left in rubble — the civil war ravaged the country and left the south destroyed. However, it was rare to see a confederate battle flag raised after, unless it was on the graves of soldiers. Many supporters of the confederate flag see this as the end of the flag’s history and outline it as heritage and a memorial to the soldiers that fought as martyrs of “states rights”. This train of thought skips over many important things and oversimplifies the flag’s history.

The modern confederate flag you see is actually not the confederate flag at all, it is the 28th infantry Virginia battle flag — the biggest provider of confederate soldiers. The real flag was mainly white with the “stars and bars” in the corner, however, they found this to be problematic due to it looking like a white flag of peace. This flag was then modified to have a red line going down the end of the flag to differentiate it from the flag of peace, however, this flag was implemented at the end of the war with it not really being prominent and falling into obscurity. In the aftermath of the war, the south saw a problem: the perception of their cause and their states, so they pushed into full swing right away to rewrite history. The confederacy had fought for “state’s rights”, there is no denying this, but the state’s rights were more specifically the right to own another human as a slave with no repercussions. The belief that the confederacy was not built on white supremacy quickly gets thrown out the window when official confederate documents are examined — case in point, the Texas declaration of secession, which states that they “hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable”. None of those lines were cut out or interrupted, that is purely what it says. However, confederate officials wanted Americans to forget about this and what “southern values” actually entailed: hatred. 

You cannot change history easily, it is a process that has to be executed perfectly. The south saw that they were about to have a generation which never saw or felt the war, a clean slate of which they could corrupt — this is where The United Daughters of The Confederacy come in. The UDC was formed in September 1894 by Caroline Meriwether Goodlett and Anna Davenport Raines out of Nashville, Tennessee. The purpose of the group, as bulleted under the about section on their official website, is to “collect and preserve the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States and to protect, preserve, and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor”. The idea almost seems noble, until you put their idea of a “truthful history of the war” under a watchful eye. The 1914 UDC Mississippi chapter historian, Laura Martin Rose, published a children’s book. The children’s book was titled “The Ku Klux Klan, or Invisible Empire” and claims that the KKK was built “for the purpose of protecting the homes and women of the South”. However, the Klan was already labeled as a terrorist organization in 1870 and had known accounts of home invasions and the murder and rape of many women (of whom were people of color and some were white — the 1925 rape/murder case of Madge Oberholtzer is the biggest example of this). The group also made a monument to the Klan in 1926. Extending their reach for indoctrination, they had created offshoot groups: The Children of The Confederacy — which acted as an after school club. This club included children competing in competitions where they would recite neo-confederate passages from “A Confederate Catechism” by memory to win prizes. One of these passages quotes: “Did the South fight for slavery?” With the children responding with : “No, for had Lincoln not sent armies to the south, that country would have done no fighting at all”. These children would also be centerpieces in their monument unveiling. This sense of liveliness and personal connections that were built to these children and the confederacy made it way easier to keep their made up history alive. Textbooks were written for southern schools influenced by these groups “History of Georgia” a textbook is written in 1954 that was taught throughout elementary and junior high schools states that slave masters “Held barbecues and picnics for their slaves” and that slaves would sing songs “even while working in the cotton fields”. Indoctrination had succeeded and history had pretty much been rewritten for the south, erasing the atrocities they committed from textbooks: leading to generations of people not seeing the confederacy as an army that stood for the preservation of a hateful belief: white supremacy. 

The flag had laid dormant for a while, not really being seen in any light besides the memorial until 1948. During the election of ‘48, a third party group called “Dixiecrats” entered the ballot as a third party and their main movement was to suppress the Civil Rights movement of course, they used the battle flag as a prominent symbol. As the civil rights movement gained traction, the flag was hoisted up more and it got to the point where Georgia redesigned their flag in 1956 to include the battle flag — almost a century after the war had started. 

Due to living in Quakertown for their whole lives, for many people the flag has become almost blended into the sights they see daily — resulting in desensitization. When driving through the outskirts of Quakertown, the battle flag is hoisted very visibly for anyone driving by on this main road — ripped and lying limp parallel to a clean American flag. Almost everyday, when I drive by this flag, it seems more and more ripped and every time I pass it I cannot help but feel distraught and pushed back.  This is not the only battle flag in our town and they almost blend in, due to our normalization of seeing it. The flag, at most times in our town, is on cars and not hoisted up — being way more subtle. Many of these people who have this flag on their car may only see it as a symbol of heritage, as discussed above, or just as a design. But for many people, as shown by the survey results — when they see this flag they think the person who has it thinks “the worst possible thing”. 

With a history rooted in violence, oppression, and treason: there is no doubt that the flag is associated with hatred. The confederacy only lasted four years, you are more linked to the American flag even if you had family linkage to the confederacy, America has been around for two hundred and forty six years and a four year period of darkness is just a dot in history that traditionalists like to hold close and deny. A flag represents what you stand for and what you support and there is almost no reason needed to fly a confederate battle flag, in a town so intertwined with “brotherly love” and Quakers — a flag that only displays the mere opposite of these beliefs has no room here and should finally move on to its afterlife with it’s failed regime that had bled out over a century ago.