The Confederate Flag is one again making headlines in the North Georgia press. Recently, the local Sons of Confederate Veterans raised the battle flag on the lawn of the Chattooga County Courthouse to commemorate Confederate Heritage Month. The flag is scheduled to be lowered at the end of the month when the SCV will replace the CBF with the Bonnie Blue Flag. As can be expected, controversy ensured.
The local SCV chapter commander, Stan Hammond, had this to say of the flag:
“History is written by the victors in about any war you see,” he said. “[The flag and monument] commemorate them. They’ll never be forgotten.”
The local SCV and Hammond consider themselves heritage advocates. As expected, they trot out the same tired arguments heard time and time again. Hammond claims people who attack the flag and/or Confederate monuments simply want to “do away with the Confederate…He [Confederate soldier] was an American soldier just like everybody else.” Of course, this is a statement Al Mackey might disagree with.
Chattooga County was not exactly foaming at the bit to secede and fight for the Confederacy. The community was somewhat divided over the issue and loyalties were usually driven by communal factors. At the Georgia Secession Convention in 1861, both of Chattooga County’s delegates, Wesley Shropshire and L. Williams, signed the secession ordinance but both voted no on the issue. One hundred and fifty years later, Chattooga County is still divided but it appears only one side is getting commemoration – the Confederate side. Both the city’s mayor and police chief do not support the Confederate Battle Flag on public grounds. There is a racial element attached to their criticism because both Mayor Harry Harvey and Police Chief Stan Mosley are the first black people in the city’s history to serve in their respective offices.
Mayor Harvey argues that the flag belongs on private property. He states that “There is a better location as far as that is concerned. [He does] think there are, of course, places for heritage and those type of things. But at the same time, we need to be sensitive to other people.” Chief Mosley shares that sentiment. His family were victims of racism and as Mosley claims, out of “respect for [his] elders and [his] ancestors…[he] won’t sit…and condone it.” It seems Chattooga County is another place where Confederate Heritage collides with Civil Rights Heritage.
Perhaps an interesting perspective of the issue are the statements made by Rev. Solomon Missouri of the Hemphill American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Summerville. Oddly, though Missouri is a pastor of the local AME church, he is actually an out of towner. Missouri drives up from Atlanta on the weekends to preach. I find that really interesting. Can a pastor of a local congregation be seen as an ‘outsider’ even though he provides religious guidance to a part of the local community? I digress. Standing in front of his congregation, Rev. Hemphill had this to say:
“The flag must come down. If this sign is a part of your collective heritage, then your heritage bears the stench of oppression. If this sign evokes feelings of pride than [sic] your pride is indeed a sin.”
Much like Mayor Harvey and Chief Mosley, the core of Rev. Missouri’s issues revolve around the fact that the flag is flying on public grounds. In his mind, it seems unseemly to see such a decisive symbol on the grounds where citizens seek “communal justice.”
In a couple of days the flag will be lowered and the issue might be forgotten…that is until next year.