The Confederate Flag: A Symbol of the Antebellum South and the Next Great First Amendment Challenge

During the last 50 years the historiography and teaching methods regarding the subject of the Civil War has taken a major shift in the southern states. Until the mid-twentieth century, the Civil War was taught in the South primarily as a war fought over states rights. Today, the same subject has a more sinister cause with sensitive connotations. Slavery. However, this shift in ideology has not effected all of the population. According to the New York Times article “A Test of Free Speech and Bias, Served on a Plate From Texas” by Adam Liptak, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has rejected a license plate design in the form of the Confederate flag based on the principle that it is offensive to minority peoples. In opposition to this ruling the Sons of Confederate Veterans are challenging the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by taking the case to the Supreme Court on Monday March 23 claiming that the decision infringes up the group’s First Amendment rights. Ben Jones, the spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, asserts that the Confederate flag is a symbol of the south, and in modern times is not a symbol of slavery. This disregard for the implications made by the flag as a symbol shows that not all southerners have grasped the change from a states rights conflict to a war fought over the ownership of human beings. No matter the Supreme Court’s ruling today, the fact remains that the South is not ready to completely give up their Antebellum identity.


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