According to a new Washington Post article, the argument that Confederate flags are a symbol of "Southern pride" is complicated by a historical analysis that shows they weren't widely-flown until the rise of the Civil Rights movement.
Based on a close reading of historical instances of the Southern "battle flag," political scientists Logan Strother, Thomas Ogorzalek and Spencer Piston found that the flag wasn't a regular part of Southern symbology until 1948. That year, former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) led a walkout of Southern Democrats at the Democratic National Convention in protest of then-President Harry Truman's civil rights policy, and it became known as the "Dixecrat Revolt." After the walkout, the Dixiecrats began to use the Confederate flag.
Soon after, "the flag became strongly linked to white supremacy and opposition to civil rights for African Americans."
"In 1951," the report continues, "Rep. John Rankin (D-MI), a very outspoken segregationist, proudly announced that he had 'never seen as many Confederate flags in all my life as I have observed floating here in Washington during the last few months.' Rankin himself wore a Confederate flag necktie to serve as a constant reminder of his opposition to 'beastly' integration policies."
In 1955, the year after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that ordered the desegregation of American public schools, Georgia redesigned their flag to include the Confederate flag, and in 1956, that flag was adopted by the Georgia state legislature.
"Denmark Groover, who guided the bill through the State House, frankly admitted that 'the Confederate symbol was added mostly out of defiance to federal integration orders,'" the Post report noted.
Read the entire report on the history of this symbol of "Southern pride" via the Post.