For 39 years, the Confederate battle flag — an instantly recognizable blue “X,” bedecked with white stars, against a red background — flew atop the Capitol dome in Columbia, South Carolina. It still flies on the State House grounds, and the governor wants it removed.
It is different from the South Carolina state flag, which features a white crescent moon and palmetto tree against a field of indigo.
But in at least five other Southern states, symbols of the old Confederacy form part of the state flags themselves.
Adopted in 1895, the state flag of Alabama is a simple crimson “X,” also known as the cross of St. Andrew, against a field of white.
According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, a state archivist concluded in 1915 that the flag was meant to “preserve in permanent form some of the more distinctive features of the Confederate battle flag, particularly the St. Andrew’s cross.”
The state flag of Arkansas features four stars and the name of the state inside a diamond. Three stars correspond to countries to which Arkansas belonged before its official statehood.
The fourth was added by the Legislature in 1923 to represent the Confederacy, according to a state historian. The next year, separate legislation positioned the fourth star above the state name and put the other three below.
From 1868 to 1900, the flag was the state seal against a white background. Gov. Francis Fleming, who fought in the Confederate army, suggested adding the red “X” in the 1890s to distinguish it from a flag of surrender, according to the Department of State.
Florida’s state flag thus strongly resembles Alabama’s. Separately, a version of the Confederate flag known as the Stainless Banner flew over the west entrance of the Capitol from 1978 until 2001, when Gov. Jeb Bush ordered it removed.
In 1956, Georgia adopted a flag that prominently incorporated the battle emblem. It came down in 2001 in favor of a compromise flag that made the Confederate imagery much smaller.
The current flag was adopted in 2003. It is the first national flag of the Confederacy, known as the Stars and Bars, with the state’s symbolic arch added inside a circle of stars. Georgia voters endorsed it by a 3-to-1 margin in a 2004 referendum.
Mississippi is the only state still incorporating the Confederate battle emblem into its state flag. Voters endorsed it by a margin of almost 2-to-1 in a 2001 referendum.
The Republican speaker of the state House said Monday that the emblem should be removed. “As a Christian,” he said, “I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.”