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Georgia Flags (1920-2001) (U.S.)

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1956-2001 Flag

[1956-2001 Flag of Georgia] image by Clay Moss, 6 April 2009

Act approved Oct. 17, 1879, 1878-1879 Georgia Laws 114 (adopting state flag consisting of blue vertical stripe in hoist and the confederate stars and bars, three red-white-red horizontal stripes), repealed and re-enacted by Act approved Aug. 22, 1905, sec. 85, 1905 Georgia Laws 133, 162 (reorganizing state military forces and adding state seal to flag's blue vertical stripe) (effective Oct. 1, 1905), modified by Act approved Aug. 17, 1914, 1914 Georgia Laws 1247 (changing date in state seal from 1799 to 1776), repealed and re-enacted by Act approved Aug. 21, 1916, sec. 3, para. 60, 1916 Georgia Laws 158, 177 (reorganizing state military forces and including description of flag), repealed and re-enacted by Georgia Military Forces Reorganization Act of 1951, sec. 43, 1951 Ga. Laws 311, 346 (reorganizing state military forces and including description of flag), repealed and re-enacted by Georgia Military Forces Reorganization Act of 1955, sec. 43, 1955 Georgia Laws 10, 113 (reorganizing state military forces and including description of flag), amended by Act approved Feb. 13, 1956, 1956 Ga. Laws 38 (changing stars-and-bars in flag design to so-called confederate battle flag) (effective July 1, 1956) (codified in part at Georgia Code Ann. sec. 50-3-1 (1994)).

The United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Brown on May 17, 1954, unanimously ruling that racial segregation in the public schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. To say the Court's opinion was unpopular would be an understatement. The Georgia state legislature amended its flag law twenty-one months later to change one confederate flag design, the stars and bars, to another, the so-called confederate battle flag. If the Georgia state legislature did change the design to a symbol of racial segregation to protest the Court's opinion, then the legislature would certainly not been so indiscrete to admit its true reasons on the record.

Charles (Kin) Spain, 29 April 1996

Actually, they changed from one Confederate flag to another. The flag before this was based on the First National and was designed by Georgia Confederate veterans in the late 1800's. The legislature added the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1956 - NOT, according to the legislative record - to resist school desegregation, but to raise consciousness about the deteriorating battle flags of the state collection. Georgia started one of the first flag conservation movements in the country. The school desegregation proposal came three weeks after the flag law was changed. Even the Atlanta Journal newspaper, in a 1992 investigation of the change, stated that no evidence exists to link the change with racial motives. However, people in this country just prefer to believe mythology (like Washington throwing the silver dollar across the Potomac River) rather than facts - time and time again.
Greg Biggs, 1 August 1996

[With reference to the change to the 2001 flag...] from a vexillological point of view it is interesting to note the marginal role played by historical scholarship in the debate over the Georgia state flag. I am especially thinking of John Walker Davis: "An Air of Defiance: Georgia's State Flag Change of 1956," The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 82, No. 2, 1998, pp. 305-330. This article addresses many of the issues discussed on this list recently, and is well worth taking into consideration. Davis' article is, of course, a detailed historical analysis, and it would be impossible to give a full overview of his arguments and the historical evidence he has analysed in this posting. Let me just give you a couple of extracts.

Davis' conclusion is that "An overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that those who introduced the flag change and those legislators who voted for it were not motivated by a desire to offer a memorial to Confederate soldiers, but were influenced by the Supreme Court's desegregation rulings and by the fear that the Court would find Georgia's county-unit system unconstitutional. Indeed, the flag change was a symbolic representation of "massive resistance" in Georgia-a change that reflected Georgia legislators' unwillingness to change." (p. 307-308).

Davis points out that no official record of the discussion on the 1956 flag change in the Georgia legislature exist. Therefore, he has traced the people who fought for the change and investigated their involvement in other controversial issues at the time, which was of course, desegregation. Through the analysis the role played by the Association of County Commissioners is highlighted. The Association of County Commissioners first suggested the flag change in April 1955 and lobbied for it until the bill was successful. Davis is clear in his conclusion about the motivations of the flag change proponents: "When the Association of County Commissioners suggested placing the Rebel emblem on Georgia's flag in 1955, it was motivated by tradition and heritage: a tradition of maintaining segregation and a heritage of county-unit dominance. Along with a desire to maintain political power, racism motivated slaveholders in 1861 and the Dixiecrats in 1948. Racism motivated the ACC to suggest a flag change, and racism motivated those legislators who approved the Georgia flag change in 1956." (p. 328).

Jan Oskar Engene, 27 January 2001

1920-1956 Flag

[Flag of Georgia (1920-1956)] image by Clay Moss, 6 April 2009

I just completed a conference in Atlanta and noticed that Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport flies the old (pre-1958) Georgia state flag. This flag, for those who don't know, is modeled after the First Confederate Flag. It has in the hoist a vertical blue stripe approximately one third the width of the flag with the state seal in the stripe's center, and three horizontal stripes of red-white-red (like Austria) in the fly. The current flag, modified in the late '50s in time for the centennial of the Civil War (and not, as many claim, in response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas--check the Georgia state legislative record for proof), replaced the three horizontal red-white-red stripes with the Confederate Battle Flag. Efforts have been made to revert to the old flag, but these have not succeeded. Apparently the Atlanta Airport Authority decided to make their opinions known in a very visible way.
Steven Shea, 26 April 1996