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Confederate Battle Flag an Unnerving Sight in Capitol

Historians in the News
tags: Confederacy, Capitol Riot



A Muslim American college student said he had fought back tears when he saw the image of a Trump supporter carrying the Confederate battle flag through the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday.

A Black Senate aide who for years has walked confidently through the halls of Congress said his feelings of safety had crumbled when he saw the photo.

And a Black historian said she had immediately thought of James Byrd, the Black Texas man who was dragged to death by white supremacists in a pickup truck in 1998.

The historian, Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, said she had felt “disgust” and recalled “wanting to scream.”

“To see it flaunted right in front of your face, in the United States Capitol, the heart of the government, was simply outrageous,” she said.

Amid the images and videos that emerged from Wednesday’s rampage, the sight of a man casually carrying the Confederate battle flag outside the Senate floor was a piercing reminder of the persistence of white supremacism more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

Months after statues of Confederate leaders and racist figures were removed or torn down around the world, an unidentified man in bluejeans and a black sweatshirt carried the emblem of racism through the Ohio Clock corridor, past a portrait of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, an abolitionist.

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The man carrying the flag faced less stringent security than that encountered by the Confederate soldiers who failed to penetrate Union forts guarding the Capitol during the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11 and 12, 1864, said William Blair, professor emeritus of history at Penn State and the former director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at the university.

“The Confederate flag made it deeper into Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, than it did during the Civil War,” he said.

The sight, Professor Blair said, was “jarring and disheartening.”

“There is so much confusion about people who fly that flag,” he said. “But even if they try to divorce slavery from it — which you can’t — how do you justify waving the flag of a confederacy that tried to tear the country apart, then call yourself a patriot?”

Read entire article at New York Times

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