The Sunday Question: A Better Symbol for Southern Heritage?

Over at the gift that keeps on giving, our good friend Connie Chastain offers the following:

“Come up with” a symbol of Southern heritage?

A repeat commenter (don’t know how regularly she comments) at one of our critics’ blog thinks that, “Surely someone can come up with a symbol of Southern heritage and pride that is far more inclusive and doesn’t come with so much baggage.”

Basically, abandon/repudiate the flag chosen Confederate veterans the to honor and commemorate the Confederate soldier’s defense of home and family, his struggle for his country’s political independence, his courage, valor, his fighting spirit, his incomprehensible suffering from torture in POW camps, from wounds in battle and disease and near-starvation, his missing legs and arms and eyes…

“Come up with” a symbol of Southern heritage and pride? Sure. Be glad to. Just as soon as hell freezes over….

As usual, Ms. Chastain, who’s revealed herself here in the comments section of other blog posts to be something of an apologist for slavery, confuses Confederate heritage for southern heritage.  The Confederate flag represents a portion of that heritage, but by its very nature its use excludes other southerners of various heritages and beliefs who lived at other times. 

What do you think best represents southern heritage?  Indeed, how would you define it?  After all, we don’t talk of northern heritage or western (US) heritage.  Indeed, when people speak of “southern heritage” they are really talking about “southeastern US heritage.”  So does this concept of “southern heritage” even make sense?  Or is it really just a way to conceal what these people really want to celebrate … Confederate heritage?  Why are they embarrassed to use that term?  Are they ashamed of it?

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50 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: A Better Symbol for Southern Heritage?

  1. Al Mackey December 4, 2011 / 7:54 pm

    The SEC logo would be a far better symbol of southern heritage. SEC dominance of the BCS has lasted longer than the confederacy, for example. If we want to look further back, look at Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide teams. SEC (and its progenitors) football is far more positive, more patriotic, more inclusive, and has had an impact on more people than the four short years of the confederacy.

    • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 12:48 pm

      Al , I was transferred to Birmingham AL and lived there for two years. I heard enough about “Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide’ to last for a hundred life times 🙂

  2. Marc Ferguson December 4, 2011 / 7:56 pm

    I think the CBF is a symbol of Confederate Heritage AND of Massive Resistance to desegregation I’m going to have to give some thought to what might be an appropriate symbol for Southern U.S. history and culture, I’m tempted to say “the whip,” but that would only be viewed as unnecessarily provocative. How about one of those ads for an escaped slave you know, with the image of an escaping slave carrying a bundle, one assumes of clothes, on the end of a stick? Don’t take that personally Connie, I’m sure you never placed one of those ads.

    • Helga Ross December 5, 2011 / 8:38 am

      Marc:
      Since you and others point out and argue that the CBF doesn’t represent all Southerners nor include all Southerners, neither does this:

      “I’m tempted to say “the whip,” but that would only be viewed as unnecessarily provocative. How about one of those ads for an escaped slave you know, with the image of an escaping slave carrying a bundle, one assumes of clothes, on the end of a stick?”

      • Brooks D. Simpson December 5, 2011 / 8:45 am

        I didn’t care for Marc’s symbols, either, but they are more representative of the southern (and the American) experience than the Confederate flag. Both would not cover the period after 1865, unless some southerners want to embrace a symbol used to justify segregation and discrimination, which by definition would not represent all southerners..

        • marcferguson December 5, 2011 / 10:56 am

          i assume that everyone here got that my replies were meant tongue-in-cheek, but if not then rest assured they were.

          • Shao Ping December 5, 2011 / 12:06 pm

            Well, I got it and was only semi-serious in my endorsement of your symbols.

          • Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 12:40 pm

            Marc my “tongue-in-cheek” and my strange sarcasm often is taken to seriously 🙂 I get your “tongue-in-cheek” .

  3. Lyle Smith December 4, 2011 / 8:42 pm

    There really isn’t any better symbol of Southern heritage at the moment. Maybe in the future there will be something else, but right now the Confederate battle flag is surely THE symbol for it.

    • Shao Ping December 4, 2011 / 9:58 pm

      Am I being overly naive when I think the magnolia could be a symbol of Southern heritage? It is inclusive and without any baggage I know of. The problem with the battle flag (as I assume the original commentator thought) is that it represents a very thin part of Southern heritage. Thomas Jefferson would not have recognized it, George Thomas did not support it.

      That said, I am partial to Marc Ferguson’s suggestions. Despite the claims of Connie Chastain and her compatriots, I think we underestimate the importance of slavery and its horrors. Slavery was central to the South’s identity and a symbol of Southern heritage should recognize it.

      • Lyle Smith December 5, 2011 / 9:49 am

        The Magnolia already is a symbol of the South and its genteelness. It’s possibly got some Lost Cause issues as well because of its use as a representation of the ideal South back in the day. I’m also not sure how widespread the flower is beyond the Deep South.

        The flower also suggests all things white by its color.

        It is a lovely flower though, and there is a magnolia tree in my parents yard.

  4. Noma December 4, 2011 / 9:20 pm

    The South needs a positive symbol but one that also reflect its complex history. I can’t help thinking of Irma Raumbauer’s comments on the apple pie, noting that in a patriotic mood a friend had emblazoned on his coat of arms an apple pie rampant.

    Perhaps a better symbol for Southern Heritage would be a Pecan Pie. It exemplifies a fundamental Southern Heritage of hospitality and graciousness, while simultaneously embodying the complex questions in different eras about who made the pie and what it meant to them. It would also embody the often overlooked evolving struggle of women, both black and white, to find freedom and independence and political relevance in the South.

  5. Neil Hamilton December 4, 2011 / 9:37 pm

    There should be something representative of Southern heritage that reflects the kindness of the people I have met there, the excellent food they prepare and serve there, and the many historic landmarks and beautiful countryside they themselves reside in there.

    We should also realize that the short, 4-year span of the Confederate States of American is a part of that Southern heritage and that the two cannot in any real way be separated from one another, but instead should be viewed in its proper context and lifespan that makes up all of Southern heritage.

    Sincerely,
    Neil

  6. Connie Chastain December 4, 2011 / 10:03 pm

    “Slavery apologist” — status that exists mostly in the eye of the (usually agenda-driven) accuser, rarely in objective reality.

    The Confederate flag represents the *defining* event of the region, and has come to represent the totality of the South’s heritage, from colonial days to the present..

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 5, 2011 / 8:25 am

      In your case, Connie, you’ve tried to tell us about the good aspects of slavery. That looks like an apologist to me, and it certainly looks that way to others. Then again,, your perspective is also agenda-directed. You just project your motives on others.

      As for the CBF, others disagree, because they know the South is more than the Confederacy. You don’t. Maybe it’s your sensahuma, but others don’t find that funny. You don’t speak for the South or for southerners.

    • Margaret Blough December 5, 2011 / 4:34 pm

      Connie-Defining-I don’t think so, especially for those for whom the only definition for which it stood was oppression and the attempt to destroy the Union such as white southern Unionists as well as enslaved blacks and their descendants under Jim Crow/Massive Resistance. The concept that it could retroactively encompass white Southerners such as Madison and Jackson who had been prepared to use force to prevent earlier threats of attempts to secede as well as nationalists like George Washington is insulting to their memory.

      You’ve made it clear that you will dismiss as agenda-driven anyone who won’t unquestionably buy into your moonshine and magnolias mythic view of southern history. I’d suggest that you are the one who is agenda driven.

  7. martin December 5, 2011 / 8:00 am

    A black man _and_ a white man swingin’ from the gallows.

    (no need to post this, Brooks, if you think it’s inappropriate. However, it was the central theme of a South Park episode, if that lends any credibility. :-))

  8. Helga Ross December 5, 2011 / 8:05 am

    “Confederate heritage? Why are they embarrassed to use that term? Are they ashamed of it?”

    Hi Brooks,
    I can’t speak for THEM but I think they needn’t be embarrassed for the Confederacy nor with their Confederate ancestory. The way they speak of it, it doesn’t seem to me as if they are embarrassed, actually. You seem stuck on a term, whereas THEY prefer not to label it but to elaborate it. There’s nothing apologetic about THEIR musings that I see; THEY’RE pretty blunt about it, istm–so why make a petty argument out of it?

    If the flag flap will never end, how about this for the perfect symbol? A Jeb Stuart style hat with ostrich plume? How does the term “Confederate Cavalier” sound to you?

    P.S. Marc, I miss you!

    http://www.hatsinthebelfry.com/product/jeb-stuart-cavalry-military-hat-m234.html

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 5, 2011 / 8:31 am

      I thought that of all the people who post here, you would understand the importance of words. Confederate and southern are different terms. They don’t elaborate on anything: they mislead.

      Other groups aren’t apologetic about their use of terms, but folks don’t simply accept their language at fact value. Why should Confederate apologists be treated any differently? I believe in truth in labeling: they are Confederate heritage folks, and even then other people who might honor Confederate heritage have serious problems with the interpretation of history advanced by these people.

      Show me where these folks celebrate southern heritage apart from Confederate heritage. Show me where the celebrate Dr. King or Frederick Douglass, for example …. two southerners.

      • Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 12:01 pm

        Brooks then you have wild cards in the mix, those like Ted Turner, Jimmy Carter 🙂

        • Margaret Blough December 5, 2011 / 4:38 pm

          Don’t forget to add to the wild cards the names of George Thomas, Winfield Scott, David Glasgow Farragut, JEB Stuart’s FIL Philip Cooke, Parson Brownlow, James Petigru and even Andrew Johnson.

  9. Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 8:15 am

    I think the Legba symbol would be a good one, after all in represents the ‘Crossroads’ 🙂 The intersection of worlds

    • Khepera December 5, 2011 / 9:50 am

      Oh my! Well, he’s also the consummate Trickster! Are we talkin’ simple cross, veve or one of the more. . .umm. . .ithyphallic representations? 😉 And *where* did you come up with that idea?! lol

    • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 9:12 am

      And C. Vann Woodward 🙂 And Bill Clinton, Al Gore and his father, LBJ, Huey Long , James Carville, and a list of other liberals politicians . IMPORTANT NOTE: Newt Gingrich in not from Georgia or the south, we don’t claim Newt 🙂

  10. Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 11:22 am

    I was thinking about getting a little eclectic…. adding a few more things other than just a cross. You asked “*where* did you come up with that idea?” Well lets say I’m in the deep south and a lot of this stuff is still around 🙂 I also hang out in the Caribbean a lot 🙂

    • Khepera December 5, 2011 / 12:19 pm

      Gotcha. 🙂 I was just surprised to even see that name in a forum like this! And it’s a subject of particular interest to me.

      • Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 12:45 pm

        Khepera, I’m deeply emerged in that world. Can I lay a few cards out? Orisha is a part of the western hemisphere , many never see it.

        • Khepera December 5, 2011 / 2:04 pm

          A very entrenched part of it. And a deeply misunderstood one. It’s survival in the west is a bit of a testament to cultural durability.

          • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 9:01 am

            Khepera, We can thank Hollywood for a large part of modern day misunderstanding of Orisia/Vudu/Santeria 🙂 It’s survival in the west after surviving a few hundred years of slavery and the middle passage has always been a phenomenon to me. After all of these years, today in 2011 as we speak I can get up and go a couple of miles and visit an ol conjure man named Eli that employs many of the same things his ancestors employed in west Africa hundreds of years ago. And some stories I can tell, but not here on this blog 🙂 I have always felt to understand the slaves themselves understanding their spirituality is the foundation. As I have stated before , Slaves did have in common their African ancestry, being enslaved and wanting freedom . After that they were a diverse group of unique individuals. As bad as physical slavery was ,being striped of their spirituality and cultural identity was as bad if not worse. Often physical wounds are easier to heal than spiritual scars.

  11. JMRudy December 5, 2011 / 11:50 am

    From John Sims’ Gettysburg Redress, displayed at Gettysburg College in 2004:

    “This space is also dedicated to those who hold this flag in great esteem and honor. Let it be known that the Confederate flag has served its purpose and has earned a permanent place in the history of this great land. However, we should also know that this flag can never represent the full richness of the Southern Experience without causing great discord, fear, and terror. To move forward together, let us retire this flag to the annals of history and search within our creative structures for new symbols that both celebrate and honor our common heritage as Southerners, as Americans, and as Humans.”

  12. Charles Lovejoy December 5, 2011 / 11:57 am

    The South and it’s heritage symbols where do you start? With the Cherokee, the Creek (both upper and lower), the Choctaw ,the Seminoles and several other Native American groups? The French Cajun and Louisiana Creole people, a world whiten itself . Pirates? The Piney woods culture of lower southeast Georgia? The coastal cultures of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida? The Colonial South and the Antebellum south. The Confederacy and secession? Slavery and the old south? The Gullah of the south eastern coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia? The Appalachian people? The various African American cultures? The blue grass region of Kentucky? And then music? Country, Jazz and Blues are all rooted in the south, the Appalachians Nashville , the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans. Where would anybody start?

    • Helga Ross December 5, 2011 / 12:54 pm

      “And then music? Country, Jazz and Blues are all rooted in the south, the Appalachians Nashville , the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans. Where would anybody start?”

      Soul?
      Sounds about right reading his notes from Brook’s songsheet. 😉

        • Margaret Blough December 5, 2011 / 4:48 pm

          Brooks, after considering Charles, Helga’s and your responses, and taking into account that a symbol generally needs to be an single, distinctive object, I propose the banjo as the new Southern symbol. How about the banjo as a symbol? Brought to the New World by slaves, adopted by Southern whites and, especially after the Civil War, spread to all parts of the country. It has some rough patches in its history (especially the minstrel show years) but, all and all, it is still with us and has spread internationally. It’s not limited to one genre of music. John Lennon’s biological mother Julia played the banjo and she taught him banjo chords as some of his earliest introduction to making music. There’s even a Confederate connection for Connie, since JEB Stuart so loved banjo music he had a banjo player travel along with his cavalry on campaign.

          • Al Mackey December 5, 2011 / 6:17 pm

            I’m reminded of Ed Bearss’ comment in a lecture about Nathan Bedford Forrest: “Forrest didn’t have a banjo player. He had Capt. Bill (William Forrest, Bedford’s brotherr). Capt Bill and the rest of the escort didn’t sing songs. They got their kicks killing people.”

          • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 10:01 am

            That’s what an old Calabrian relative(a relative by marriage only) told me once. The same words …. Scary Al

        • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 9:41 am

          Don’t leave out Rap & Hip Hop , there are a lot of good stuff coming out of Atlanta, LIl Jon and the east side boys, T.I. Gorilla Zoe, Ludicrous, the BME click , 3 six mafia and tons more. Don’t like it if you have never listened to it. 🙂

  13. Roger E Watson December 5, 2011 / 4:29 pm

    “After all, we don’t talk of northern heritage or western (US) heritage.”

    Exactly !!!! You can’t come up with one symbol to encompass all of the heritage of any particular section of the county. There are just too many years of change and change again. All of those years make up the “heritage” in its entirety. That is the reason the confederate battle flag is only indicative of confederate heritage. Four years of war and by extension, Jim Crow, segregation, etc. Of course, these are still part of Southern heritage but not all of it by any means.

  14. Neil Hamilton December 5, 2011 / 4:51 pm

    Mr. Lovejoy,

    Perhaps one could begin to consider other symbols and ideas to represent Southern heritage if there were those who did not insist that such consideration begin and end with the Confederate Battle Flag?

    Sincerely,
    Neil

    • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 11:07 am

      Neil I don’t think the CBF is used to a large degree to represent the south. I know the Mississippi state flag still uses the symbol and South Carolina still flies it on the capital but other than that and a few other uses like on the Alabama coat of arms it’s not used as a symbol of the south. Georgia uses a peach as it’s symbol, even if South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia. The Floridian symbol I think is an orange. South Carolina’s is the Palmetto tree. Most use of the CBF I see is private use, and that’s a very different issue. I know Kid Rock who is from Detroit uses it at his concerts and several aging southern rock groups still use it. I live in Georgia and I don’t see very many CBF’s used .

      • Charles Lovejoy December 6, 2011 / 11:08 am

        South Carolina files it on the capital grounds and no longer on the capital itself, I meant

        • Neil Hamilton December 6, 2011 / 4:31 pm

          Mr. Lovejoy,

          Thank you for your reply above, which I happen to agree with, that most of the Southern States do not use the CBF as a symbol of their state or all of their heritage. The problem seems to be with a vocal minority who would, if they could, change all that by insisting the CBF should be used as a symbol that represents ALL of Southern heritage, when the flag is only a small portion of that heritage.

          Thank you for your time.

          Sincerely,
          Neil

  15. TF Smith December 5, 2011 / 9:18 pm

    See:

    “Western Heritage” does exist – not quite as militantly as the southrons, of course. Basically all that is asked today is to be born in, say, the home of Bruins, Golden Bears, and Bulldogs:

    http://www.nsgw.org/

    • R E Watson December 6, 2011 / 6:47 am

      Looks more like “California Heritage” to me 🙂

  16. TF Smith December 6, 2011 / 6:53 pm

    I think who are unlucky to have born outside the Golden State are welcome to buy a round for the parlor.

    Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, Anderson Valley, etc are all welcome as means of exchange.

  17. Margaret Blough December 7, 2011 / 11:41 pm

    As the person who asked the question that so incensed Connie (I loved the dig about not being sure how often I posted. I doubt she counted, of course, but it was a bizarre, irrelevant remark by her). I actually don’t recall asking her to repudiate anyone. or anything. However, I have difficulty believing that even Connie thinks that the descendants of southern white Unionists and as well as the descendants of enslaved/free blacks (at least 200,000 of whom fought under the US Flag) see the CBF as representing them anymore than their forebears did. I do believe that she refuses to acknowledge the additional negative symbolism the CBF acquired beginning in 1948 with the Dixiecrat Party, through the Massive Resistance of the 1950s and 1960s and continuing through to now. One can proclaim that “it’s heritage, not hate” all one wants, but the time to speak up was when this was happening. Only the UDC, from anything I have seen, protested the use of the CBF as the banner of modern white supremacists at the time it was acquiring that symbolism. The UDC’s opposition was not nearly enough.

    Connie can declaim all she wants but the South is more than 4 bloodstained years that were brought about by those who were willing to accept war in order to protect slavery from a perceived threat posed by the unquestionably legal, constitutionally valid election of a Republican as president of the US in November 1860. The modern south is a diverse, vibrant area that has made major strides in overcoming the ills of the past and might well benefit from a symbol that ALL of its residents can embrace freely.

  18. John Buchanan December 8, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    Margaret,

    Well said.

    While my initial response was rather flippant, you have squarely hit the nail on the head.

    The Southern story encompasses:

    Alcorn State, Southern University, Virginia State Universtiy and all of the other historically black colleges and universities.

    Hunstville, Kenedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center…all areas of high technology which put men on the moon and brought them hoem safely.

    Camden, Ninety-Six, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown…all places which broke the back of the British Empire.

    Fantastic cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin, Savannah

    The ability to transfuse human blood, the electric trolley car system, the traffic light, Coca Cola…all were developed in the South

    Confining the Southern Story to 4 years is a great error.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 8, 2011 / 12:50 pm

      And that’s why I can’t quite figure out why people simply won’t say what they are doing. They aren’t preserving southern heritage. They’re preserving Confederate heritage. Just come out and say it. Why is that so difficult?

      • Roger E Watson December 8, 2011 / 3:27 pm

        Much too easy, Brooks ! Saying you are preserving Confederate heritage is the same as saying you are preserving a way of life that depended mainly on the enslavement of others. Without a need to preserve slavery, there would have been no need for the Confederacy.

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