- Aug 16, 2015
Thanks for reminding us! If Georgia can make the change, why can't Mississippi? The CBF belongs in museums and reenactments.This is the former Georgia state flag, which was the official flag from 1956-2001.
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This is the current state flag.
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It resembles an older version of the flag, which is seen in this image, from 1941:
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The conflict over the Georgia flag illustrates the contest over the representation of southern heritage in official objects of the state. Wiki notes:
The Georgia state flag that was used from 1956 to 2001 featured a prominent Confederate battle flag and was designed by Southern Democrat John Sammons Bell, a World War II veteran and an attorney who was an outspoken supporter of segregation.The 1956 flag was adopted in an era when the Georgia General Assembly "was entirely devoted to passing legislation that would preserve segregation and white supremacy", according to a 2000 research report by the Georgia Senate. There are few, if any, written records of what was said on the Georgia House and Senate floors when the 1956 flag bill was being introduced and passed by the Georgia legislature, nor does Georgia law provide for a statement of legislative intent when a bill is introduced, although former U.S. Congressman James Mackay, one of the 32 House members who opposed the change, later stated, "There was only one reason for putting the flag on there: like the gun rack in the back of a pickup truck, it telegraphs a message." Additionally, the 2000 report concluded that the "1956 General Assembly changed the state flag" during "an atmosphere of preserving segregation and resentment" to the U.S. government's rulings on integration.The 2000 report states that the people who had supported the flag's change in the 1950s said, in recalling the event years later, that "the change was made in preparation for the Civil War centennial, which was five years away; or that the change was made to commemorate and pay tribute to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War." Bell, who designed the 1956 flag and supported its adoption during the 1950s as a defense of the state's "institutions", which at the time included segregation, claimed years later that he did so to honor Confederate soldiers. The 2000 report states that the claims that the flag was ostensibly changed in 1956 to honor Confederate soldiers came much later after the flag's adoption, in an attempt by the change's supporters to backtrack from prior support of segregationism in an era where it was no longer fashionable, saying that the "argument that the flag was changed in 1956 in preparation for the approaching Civil War centennial appears to be a retrospective or after-the-fact argument" and that "no one in 1956, including the flag’s sponsors, claimed that the change was in anticipation of the coming anniversary".At the time, opposition to changing the flag came from various sides, including from Confederate historical groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Opponents to a change of the flag stated that incorporating the Confederate battle flag into the design would be too sectionalist, counterproductive, and divisive, saying that people should show patriotism towards the United States rather than the defunct Confederacy, referring to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which states that the U.S. is "one nation ... indivisible". Opponents of the flag's change also said that there was nothing wrong with the 1920 flag and that people were content with it. Others opposed changing the flag out of the burden it would place on those who would have to purchase a new flag to replace the outdated one.The 2000 Georgia senate report and other critics have interpreted the adoption of the 1956 flag as a symbol of racist protest, citing legislation passed in 1956 which included bills rejecting Brown v. Board of Education and pro-segregationist comments by then-Governor Marvin Griffin, such as "The rest of the nation is looking to Georgia for the lead in segregation."Political pressure for a change in the official state flag increased during the 1990s, in particular during the run-up to the 1996 Olympic Games that were held in Atlanta. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) focused on the Georgia flag as a major issue and some business leaders in Georgia felt that the perceptions of the flag were causing economic harm to the state. In 1992, Governor Zell Miller announced his intention to get the Confederate element removed, but the state legislature refused to pass any flag-modifying legislation. The matter was dropped after the 1993 legislative session. Many Atlanta residents and some Georgia politicians refused to fly the 1956 flag and flew the pre-1956 flag instead.Miller's successor as governor, Roy Barnes, responded to the increasing calls for a new state flag, and in 2001 hurried a replacement through the Georgia General Assembly. His new flag, designed by architect Cecil Alexander, sought a compromise, by featuring small versions of some (but not all) of Georgia's former flags, including the controversial 1956 flag, under the words "Georgia's History." Those flags are a thirteen-star U.S. flag of the "Betsy Ross" design; the first Georgia flag (before 1879); the 1920–1956 Georgia flag; the previous state flag (1956–2001); and the current fifty-star U.S. flag.In a 2001 survey on state and provincial flags in North America conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, the redesigned Georgia flag was ranked the worst by a wide margin. The group stated that the flag "violates all the principles of good flag design." After the 1956 state flag was replaced in 2001, the Georgia city of Trenton adopted a modified version as its official city flag, to protest its discontinuation.There was widespread opposition to the new flag, deemed the "Barnes flag". It led, according to Barnes himself, to his defeat for reelection two years later; the flag was a major issue in the election.In 2002, Sonny Perdue was elected Governor of Georgia, partially on a platform of allowing Georgians to choose their own flag in a state referendum. He authorized the Georgia legislature to draft a new flag in 2003.The Georgia General Assembly's proposed flag combined elements of Georgia's previous flags, creating a composition that was inspired by the Confederate First National flag, the Stars and Bars, rather than the Confederate Battle Flag. Perdue signed the legislation into law on May 8, 2003.The 2003 flag legislation also authorized a public referendum on which of the two most recent flags (the 2001 and 2003 versions) would be adopted as the flag of the state; the 1956 flag was not an option. The referendum took place during the state's March 2, 2004 presidential primary election. If the 2003 flag was rejected, the pre-2001 design would have been put to a vote. The 2003 design won 73.1% of the vote in the referendum.
A key point which is not noted above is that when the CBF-based flag was adopted in 1956, African Americans were shut-out the of electoral politics in the state. The adoption of the flag was a whites-only process.
Had African Americans been similarly disenfranchised during later debates over the flag, there might not even have been a debate over the look of the flag at all; the 1956 version of the flag might still be alive today. To be sure, support for changing the flag was biracial. But biracial support was probably essential in the process.