Battle Flag Kept in Place Once Again

The News & Advance
March 27, 2012

In the minds of a few, the war between the Confederacy and the Union has never really ended. A Richmond group calling itself Virginia Flaggers is the latest example.

The group has seized upon the opening of the new annex of the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox this week to resurrect yet another battle over where the Confederate battle flag should be flown or displayed.

It’s an unnecessary battle that only detracts from the important lessons learned a century and a half ago during the horror of the Civil War.


The latest skirmish began some time ago in Richmond where members of the group have been protesting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ removal of a Confederate flag from the Confederate Memorial Chapel on the museum grounds.

Now the group is taking on the Museum of the Confederacy. Members of the Virginia Flaggers plan to protest the branch’s opening because a Confederate flag will not fly in front of it.

Susan Hathaway of Sandston, founder of the group, made it clear that the conflict between the states is not quite over. Referring to the flag, she said, “It’s a symbol of my ancestors and what they fought for and what they gave their lives for in a lot of cases. We feel like it is dishonoring them to put some kind of shame on the flag and make it something that has to be hidden.”

Hidden? S. Waite Rawls III, president and CEO of the Richmond-based museum, offered to show plans of the Appomattox museum to the group, but they declined. Had they agreed to meet with him, they would have seen that those plans call for the display of 22 Confederate flags among exhibits inside the museum.

That’s hardly hiding the flag, which Hathaway concedes is a polarizing image to many people, including African-Americans for whom it is a symbol of racism and oppression.

Rawls explained there will be flags outside the entrance to the Appomattox museum — plenty of them. That display of 15 flags will include 14 state flags in the order in which they left the Union and an American flag.

“Appomattox is a metaphor for the reunification of the country,” Rawls said. “To put the Confederate flag into that display would be a historical untruth,” he added. He’s exactly right.

And despite a number of other critics who have spoken in favor of displaying the Confederate flag at the museum, Rawls is resolute about his position not to fly the flag outside. The critics, including Sons of Confederate Veterans, “have a different approach to educating the public than we do,” Rawls said. “We have 122 years of experience in doing it. They don’t.”

Opening the annex this weekend is part of the Museum of the Confederacy’s effort to attract a wider audience by including more diverse stories of Southerners’ roles in the Civil War, including those of African-Americans and women. The Appomattox site also opens the museum’s enormous collection of artifacts directly to Civil War tourists.

Among those artifacts are 22 distinct Confederate battle flags displayed in the context in which they were flown during the Civil War — and not displayed to boost the political beliefs of some who would once again put the flag above the American flag and the “republic for which it stands.”

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