Confederate Flag: Pride Or Prejudice?
The Civil War claimed the lives of more than 600,000 soldiers. No other war has taken more American lives.
It would pit countryman against countryman, brother against brother. And 150 years after it started, the country remains divided over what was the main cause of the war: A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows the national nearly divided over whether it was slavery or states’ rights.
Here in Caddo Parish, there are also disagreements over reminders of the war. Some say those symbols honor their heritage, while others say they conjure images of slavery and hatred.
In downtown Shreveport, the Confederate third national flag flies atop a monument right in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.
It’s on the courthouse square, but the small plot of land on which the monument sits is actually privately owned: In 1902, the Caddo Police Jury donated the small square of land to the United Daughters of the Confederacy for a monument. The parish picked up one-tenth of the cost of the $10,000 monument.
Some have a problem with it flying in such a public area.
"It angers me to the point that every time I pass by it, I want to take it down," Ronald Hamilton said.
Others see it as part of their history, not a symbol of support for slavery or violence.
"I think it’s a southern tradition. I think they ought to have that right. Back in the day they fought for it," Nathan Scott said.
While the monument is technically on private land, Lloyd Thompson, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said he gets lots of calls from people unhappy about its placement.
"I get calls all the time from folks saying, ‘I don’t want to go down there and serve jury duty. I don’t want to go to court because I don’t want to have to walk by that flag on the way to determine (someone’s) fate,’" Thompson said.
Thompson said he respects the United Daughters and their right to honor their heritage, but believes those types of markers belong in museums, not on public property.
But Lynda Gramling, the president of the local chapter of the United Daughters, said anyone who believes this symbol promotes racism or slavery is just plain wrong.
She and her husband, Paul, champion southern heritage and say this symbol was hijacked by extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
"They are a bunch of fanatics we have nothing to do with and don’t want anything to do with," Paul Champion said. "They misrepresent that flag and bring shame on that flag. I wish we could stop them from doing that but, unfortunately, they have the same rights as everyone else."
As those on both sides look back on a devastating Civil War 150 years later, LSUS history professor Gary Joiner has this suggestion for how to remember this somber anniversary: "You never, ever consider this a celebration; it is a commemoration. We have to show respect. ‘We’ is everybody."
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