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South Carolina's Confederate Flag Comes Down

Controversial confederate flag removed from the statehouse

by Borgna Brunner

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In 1962 the Confederate battle flag was placed on top of the South Carolina statehouse by vote of the all-white legislature. While other Southern states removed the flag from their statehouses, South Carolina refused to follow suit. This prompted the NAACP to organize a national economic boycott against South Carolina's $14 billion-a-year tourism industry, and since the summer of 1999, more than 100 conventions and business organizations have participated in the boycott. The boycott is considered one of the largest since the 1970s. The NAACP's president, Kweisi Mfume, said of the boycott, "this is a trigger you don't want to pull until all else has failed. In the case of South Carolina, after 38 years of negotiating even the NAACP has a limit to its patience."

Inflammatory remarks by state senator Arthur Ravenel made national headlines in Jan. 2000 when he defended the flying of the Southern Cross, referring to the NAACP as the "the National Association of Retarded People." He then apologized to "retarded people" for associating them with the NAACP. At the time of the the February Republican presidential primary, party differences on the issue were thrown in sharp relief: the Republican contenders declined to take a stand except to say that the issue was a state matter; the Democrats were outspokenly against the flag remaining.

On April 12, 2000, the South Carolina state senate finally passed a bill to remove the flag by a majority of 36-7. The bill specified that a more traditional version of the battle flag (square shaped as opposed to the rectangular flag now flying above the statehouse) would be flown in front of the Capitol next to a monument honoring fallen Confederate soldiers. The bill then went to the House, where it encountered some difficulty. But on May 18, 2000, after the bill was modified to ensure that the height of the flag's new pole would be 30 feet, it was passed by a majority of 66 to 43, and Governor Jim Hodges signed the bill five days later. On July 1, the flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse.

In 2001, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also took action against South Carolina and Mississippi over the display of the Confederate battle flag, banning the states from hosting post-season games at "pre-determined sites." The term "pre-determined sites," however, created a loophole allows some post-season games to be played in the states. The NCAA expanded the ban in 2004 to include college football bowl games.

Shortly after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called on the state legislature to immediately begin the process to remove the flag from the statehouse. In July, the Senate voted 37–3 to remove the flag.


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