We Can Get Our Flag Back - Speech by Randy Phillips
To the Flag Rally in Toccoa, GA, June 19, 2004:
The Confederate Battle Emblem Belongs On The Georgia State Flag
Here’s why. A flag should reflect the cultural inheritance and aspirations of the society over which it flies. And it should be beautiful.
Georgia has a wonderful present. Our State may have an even greater future. But the present and the future spring from our history, our collective heritage.
Our Old South and Confederate Heritage is our region’s greatest political, cultural, and historical legacy. All Southerners, of whatever hue or persuasion, have every reason to be proud of, celebrate, and honor this inheritance we share.
Before that war, the Southern States had a monopoly on cotton production. It was a wonderful thing, because Cotton is a miracle fiber. From it is made the most comfortable, durable, and popular fabrics on earth. Southern cotton clothed the planet. This cotton monopoly created the Old South, a land of myths perhaps, but realities, too: the South of plantations and mansions, southern charm and hospitality, and famous statesmen, from Thomas Jefferson to John C. Calhoun, from Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay to Jefferson Davis.
WHEN THE WAR CAME, every class in southern society, every ethnic group, and the major religious faiths—Protestant, Catholic, and Jew—supported The Confederate States of America. The White, Black, and Indian populations in the South overwhelmingly supported the fight for independence. Indeed, had the black population—slave and free—not supported the South, the Confederacy could not have survived four years. Some served with the confederate armies, and got pensions: most stayed home and kept civil society going. The Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations served in the Army and were represented in the Confederate Congress. The Jewish Community served in the Confederate Army, held high positions in the Confederate Government, and helped finance the war effort, both within, and outside the South.
More Southerners died fighting under the flag of the Confederate States of America than have died in all other American wars combined. Georgia sent 125,000 men to defend the South: 30,000 of them lost their lives. To put it in perspective, less than 7,000 Georgians lost their lives in World War II, more than four times as many Georgians died fighting for Southern Independence.
Victory seemed sometimes close, but after four years of valor and sometime brilliance against overwhelming odds, the South lost our bid for independence. The Confederacy ended, But The Lost Cause of Southern Independence lives today, as one of History’s greatest tragic romances.
Our Old South and Confederate Heritage is our region’s greatest political, cultural, and historical legacy.
The Starry St. Andrews Cross of the Confederate National Flag, Battle Flag, and Naval Ensign—THE Rebel Emblem—is today one of the most loved and displayed banners on our planet. The flag is not only the best known symbol of the Confederacy and old south, it is universally recognized as the emblem of the South Itself as a region and society.
The Confederate flag was carried into Battle in World War II against Japan and Germany. It was there in Vietnam. It is an international symbol of freedom, individuality, and independence.
About 1980, when Poland was ruled by Russian Communism, workers in the Gdansk shipyards began the strike and demonstrations which ended in the fall of Communism in Poland. Solidarity had no logo of its own at first, so they picked a universal symbol of freedom—the Confederate Battle Flag—as their original emblem. Both a fitting symbol and a great tribute to the South and our heritage.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there amid the banners celebrating its fall was—you guessed it—the Confederate Battle Flag. It became an emblem for the Eastern European Countries, carried in demonstrations demanding democracy and the end of communism.
Quebec is in a long contest for independence from Canada, The Rebel flag has been flown for years in the province alongside the Fleur De Lis as a symbol of independence. The protestant population in Northern Ireland flies the Confederate Battle Flag in protests against England’s plans for the province.
Southerners have every reason to fly this most enduring emblem of our collective identity, publicly, officially, and with great affection and pride.
Georgia put the Confederate emblem on our State Flag in 1956, and we did it for all the right reasons. At that point in time, our state was in the early stages of what has turned out to be five decades of phenomenal population and social and economic growth which has made Georgia the tenth largest state in the nation. Two years before, the Supreme Court had ended legal segregation in our nation, beginning the process through which the black population has entered the mainstream of America’s political, economic, and social life. And the nation was gearing up for the celebration of the centennial of the War Between The States, which was the immediate reason the Confederate
Flag was made part of Georgia’s official banner.
The new state flag, bearing the emblem of southern heritage and individuality, flew peacefully over Georgia during the end of segregation in education, in housing, in employment. Every black kid who entered a white college or public school went through the door under the 1956 flag with the confederate emblem. All the decades of growth in population and economic expansion which made us the tenth largest state occurred under the 1956 flag.
It is most fitting that a state flag prominently bearing the emblem of our collective heritage should fly over all this progress and better future for Georgians. It was indeed The Real Georgia Flag.
And then, the unthinkable happened. Governor Roy Barnes and the legislature took our flag away in 2001. They replaced it with a quilt-like banner with a confederate emblem the size of a postcard, and announced the flag fight was over.
As we know, that claim was a lie. Sonny Perdue voted to keep the 1956 flag in 2001, and he ran for Governor in 2002 on a promise that Georgians would get to vote on the flag, and the 1956 flag would be a choice in the referendum. He got elected. And he, too, lied. Georgia’s Democratic controlled House of Representatives voted to let Georgians vote on the 1956 flag, but the Republican controlled State Senate did not. Perdue sided with the Republican Senate and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce: the referendum did not let the people of Georgia vote to bring back the Real Georgia Flag. Now, once again, we are being told the flag fight is over.
Let’s prove them wrong, again. The Real Georgia Flag was taken from us as a result of the most effective campaign of big lies, intimidation, political payoffs, and cowardice in the history of our state, including the Yazoo Frauds. And that is what both the Roy Barnes Flag of 2001 and the Sonny Perdue Flag of 2003, really symbolize and represent. Lies, intimidation, political payoffs, and cowardice.
The Confederate Emblem belongs on the Georgia State Flag, but we will have to wage a determined, smart, and tough campaign to get it back. This year, when all the members of the Georgia House and Senate are up for election, is a good time to start.
Here’s things we can do. First, work to defeat every candidate who voted to take away our flag in 2001, who voted for the Sonny Perdue Flag in 2003, and who voted to deny Georgians the chance to vote for the 1956 flag.
Second, join political action groups like the Georgia Heritage Coalition, which I represent, the Southern Heritage Political Action Committee, and BoycottAtlanta.com. These dedicated groups and individuals are working hard day and night, spending freely their time and their money, in order to protect and honor our common history and heritage and get back a flag which represents it.
Third, victory must start at the grassroots level. Our leaders have robbed us of the flag at the state level. We will have to first restore its visibility at the local level. The law specifically sanctions flying the 1956 flag. We can’t get to the Governor until 2006, but we can get at our town Mayors and Councils, our School Boards, and our County Commissioners every day of the week. Attend School Board meetings, City Council meetings, and County Commission meetings and request really firmly that in addition to the U.S. Flag and the Sonny Perdue flag, they also fly the Real Georgia Flag from city and county flagpoles. And keep coming back until they do it. Like the legislature, these folks are elected too. And some of them are up for election this year.
2004 is just the beginning of the campaign, and it will be a good fight. It will be a hard fight, too. But The truth is on our side. History is on our side. Right is on our side. The people are on our side. With these assets at our disposal, we can win the fight. We can get our flag back.
Randy Phillips is a former State Representative and Director of GHC's Campaign 2004.