New Museum of the Confederacy Protested for Not Flying the Confederate Flag
April 2, 2012
The Museum of the Confederacy opened its new location in Appomattox, Virginia on Saturday, with a re-enactment of the famous handshake at Appomattox Court House 147 years ago between Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant. But there was quite a bit of hand-wringing and fist-shaking going on at the opening ceremony too, as Southern heritage groups protested the Richmond-based museum’s decision not to fly the Confederate flag outside its new outpost.
The new museum features a display of 14 state flags and the American flag outside its building, but much to the chagrin of Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Virginia Flaggers, no Confederate flag. To protest the decision, the two groups co-sponsored a small plane to fly over the opening ceremony with a Confederate battle flag, along with a banner inscribed with the words: “Reunification by bayonet SCV 1896.”
That slogan, a reference to the reunification symbolized by the handshake between Lee and Grant that took place a century-and-a-half ago, is the curatorial theme of the new museum. “Appomattox is a metaphor for the reunification of the country,” Museum of the Confederacy director Waite Rawls told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “To put the Confederate flag into that display would be a historical untruth.”
That spirit of reconciliation didn’t seem to sway the protesters. Members of the SCV Mechanized Cavalry walked the grounds of the new museum during its opening with Confederate flags to draw attention to their absence from the official outdoor display.
Meanwhile members of the Virginia Flaggers — whose offer to pay for a Confederate flag to be added to the museum was declined — were stationed near the museum’s driveway with a sign that read “Cultural bigots destroying southern heritage.” Susan Hathaway, a spokesperson for the group, told ABC 13: “It’s pretty hard to support a museum that seems to us to be more worried about political correctness than honoring the veterans.”
Predictably, comments on stories reporting about the protest range from measured and reasonable — “I call for all Southern Men to boycott this sorry scalawag run museum” — to calmly terrifying:
As long as people like Rawls can walk freely without having to worry about his security, nothing will change. He’s basically giving southerners a middle finger and daring you to do anything about it.
— Benjamin Sutton
Copyright © 2012, Louise Blouin Media