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Confederate Battle Flag: Why Is It Controversial?

By No machine-readable author provided. Fornax assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Charleston shooting sparks call for the Confederate battle flag, widely associated with racism and hatred, to be taken down for good. What is Confederate and its significance?
The Confederate States of America (CSA) was a short-lived government that existed in the southern United States during the American Civil War. It was established in 1861 by seven southern states in which slavery was legal after Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the U.S., but before he took office. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas declared their secession (independence) from the United States.
The Confederate flag – the 13-star saltire in red, white and blue – has come to be recognized as a symbol of the American South. It came into use at the time of the American Civil War, from 1861-65, which was triggered by the issue of slavery. Seven southern states rebelled over President Abraham Lincoln’s anti-slavery legislation and declared secession from the United States.
The Confederate flag was first adopted as a battle flag by the army of Northern Virginia. It was never officially adopted as representing the Confederate States of America (CSA) – also known as the Confederacy – but came to be known as a symbol of the American South.
Despite the defeat of the CSA, the Confederate flag – also known as the rebel flag, the battle flag, the Dixie flag, and Southern cross – continued to be flown. In the Second World War, Southern military units flew the flag. During the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, the flag became a symbol of segregation and was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan. It has also appeared in countless popular culture references.
Organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans adopted the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage but the flag also served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists in the 20th and 21st centuries. This popularity extends to white supremacists beyond the borders of the United States.
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