Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse Historian. Author/editor of White Flight; The New Suburban History; Spaces of the Modern City; Fog of War; One Nation Under God; Fault Lines. Oct. 23, 2018 3 min read

No, she burned the old *Georgia* flag, which had been designed specifically by white supremacists as a show of defiance to desegregation in 1956.

Let's dig in.

When the flag was changed, Georgia's governor was Democrat Marvin Griffin, a Klansman's son who had campaigned as "the white man's candidate" with a promise to prevent the state's schools from being integrated "come hell or high water."

Marvin Griffin might not be a household name any more, but he was famous in the 1950s as a regional leader of "massive resistance" to desegregation.

He toured the South stirring up trouble, and even helped persuade Arkansas' Gov. Faubus to resist integration at Central High.

Meanwhile, the Georgia General Assembly was likewise filled with segregationist Democrats who devoted themselves in the 1955-1956 session to doing everything they could to defy the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Brown and prevent integration of the schools.

The main plan was a drastic emergency scheme that would shut down all public schools ordered to integrate, set up fly-by-night private schools for whites, and then use taxpayer money to provide tuition grants to let children go to school there.

But that was just the start.

A flurry of other segregationist legislation passed the General Assembly that term.

One bill made it a felony, punishable by two years in jail and a heavy fine, for any school official to use taxpayer money for "mixed classes." Support was so strong it passed the House 105-2.

Tons of laws like this. In the first month of the 1955-56 session alone, the General Assembly demanded teachers take anti-integration oaths, considered fines for integrated sporting events, and called for a constitutional amendment against the integration of the US armed forces.

The General Assembly created a new education commission which devoted itself to a book-banning crusade.

A sociology textbook, for instance, was banned because it followed "the NAACP line" and tried to "condition" children to the idea that "color doesn't matter."

As it did all this, the Georgia General Assembly still insisted the Supreme Court had no right to integrate schools.

In February 1956, a resolution declaring Brown "null, void and of no force and effect" passed the Georgia House 178 to 1 and the Georgia Senate 39 to 0.

"You have moved decisively to let the whole nation know that Georgia will stand firm for its traditions and ideals," Gov. Griffin said, "come hell or high water."

The General Assembly then moved to impeach Justices of the Supreme Court who tried to "subvert" the Constitution.

Importantly, it was at this *exact* moment -- in February 1956 -- that the Georgia General Assembly changed the state flag to the one in question here.

They added the Confederate "battle flag" which had just gained fame as a banner for Dixiecrats and white supremacists.

Legislators said this was celebrate the Confederacy, but that was a ruse.

The battle flag replaced red-and-white stripes (L) -- patterned on the *official* Confederate flag (R) -- added to the state flag in 1879 by a Confederate veteran as "a tribute to the Confederate dead."

Everyone knew the new flag was meant as yet another sign of "massive resistance" to integration from the General Assembly.

"It will serve notice," House Leader Denmark Groover said, "that we intend to uphold what we stood for, will stand for, and will fight for."

And that's exactly what the old Georgia state flag was -- a banner designed by segregationists to signal their defense of white supremacy and their defiance of the Supreme Court's landmark civil rights decision. Period.

In 1992, when Stacey Abrams and other African American students burned the state flag, it was still the flag that had been designed as a celebration of the white supremacist campaign to keep black children out of Georgia's schools "come hell or high water."

And lest we think that it was only African Americans who saw this, remember that Georgia's Governor Zell Miller -- by no means a left-wing radical -- was at that very moment campaigning to get rid of that segregationist relic.

Here, listen to this: 

The idea that taking action against a banner of white supremacy in 1992 is something shameful is ludicrous, but the idea that it was somehow radical is even more so.

You can follow @KevinMKruse.


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