Confederate Flag Courthouse Display Raises Racial Tensions

Confederate flag went up along with the U.S. and state flags in a Texas town.

April 2, 2011, 6:04 PM

April 2, 2011— -- The raising of the Confederate flag along with the U.S. and state flag outside an east Texas courthouse has divided the town over whether the flying of the "Stars and Bars" is a tribute to racial oppression.

A replica of the original Confederate flag was raised outside the Anderson County Courthouse in Palestine, Texas, Friday after county commissioners narrowly approved a motion to fly the flag there throughout April in honor of Confederate History Month.

Though the officials said the decision had nothing to do with race, some members of the community said the cannot see the Confederate flag separate from the South's support for slavery, which was the central issue in the Civil War.

Kenneth Davidson, a veteran and president of the local chapter of the NAACP, led a protest at the ceremony, when a group of residents turned their backs as the flag was raised.

"I did not fight for this flag," Davidson told ABC affiliate KLTV in Longview, Texas. "This flag was hung over my people as they were hung. This flag was flying. So, how can you celebrate this and say this is for education for me. It's not."

But other residents of the area said the raising of the flag was a moment of pride and a tribute to the 1,100 men from Anderson County who fought in the Civil War.

"I disagree with their view and what I see is a problem of lack of education," Sons of Confederate Veterans member Ronnie Hatfield said. "Not on their part, because that's all the schools offer is a biased point of education and a lot of the things that were truthful about the war are left out. And, when I was in school, the U.S. history book had a whole chapter dedicated to the war in the states, and as it is today, there may be four pages."

"It's about Anderson County ... the men that marched away from that courthouse to fight," said Dollye Jeffus of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Palestine resident Doug Smith also said the flying of the flag was not about any ideology.

"We're not conveying anything about a cause or anything like that, we're simply honoring those that fought for what they believed in back in those days," he said.

But Davidson said the Confederate flag, for many a symbol of slavery and oppression, is now a highly visible sign of the strained state of race relations in Palestine, where many feel that tensions were already high.

"It's a 'good old boy' system here," he told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV.

Like many of the attendees at the ceremony, Anderson County Commissioners, who voted 3-2 last week to approve the flag's raising, maintain that the decision to fly the Confederate flag was not race-related.

"To me, it is not a racial issue," county commissioner Joey Hill told WFAA. He said he wished that more people who are upset with the flying of the confederate flag had been part of the debate.

"I wish more people would've come in," Hill said. "That courtroom is open to the public. I wish more people would've come in and stated what they thought about."

After the demonstration Friday, Palestine mayor Bob Herrington called an emergency meeting for Monday to consider passing a resolution asking the county to remove the flag.

Meanwhile, other groups of southern veteran and historical groups have looked to spread their love of Confederate history across Texas and other parts of the U.S. south.

The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans have said they want to build a Confederate memorial near the Louisiana border, and a program called Flags Across the South has made efforts to have the Confederate flag flown on private properties.

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