The recent killing of nine individuals in Emmanuel A.M.E. Church by in Charleston, South Carolina ignited a discussion over whether the Confederate Flag, a long-kept symbol of the antebellum period and slavery-defined south, should still fly in public. Proponents of the initiative to take down the flag argue that though it is a symbol, it is one that holds tangible power in spreading ideas of exclusion and discrimination and implying that the ideals of the Confederacy are acceptable.
State workers in Alabama take down a Confederate Flag after orders from the Governor.
Beyond the Confederate Flag, countless other objects and symbols of history dictate complicated narratives and ideologies. After the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, merchandise was created that depicted Uncle Tom both as Stowe intended and then as a subordinate, weak enslaved man. These caricatures contributed to the creation of the pejorative "Uncle Tom" and served as symbolic support for the continued subjugation of black individuals during reconstruction and Jim Crow. Today, these objects serve as a reminder of the continued use of the slur "Uncle Tom" and the connection between the political climate of the 19th century and today.
What cultural, political, or social power do symbols like the Confederate flag have? Can the removal of the Confederate Flag contribute to larger cultural or political change? How?
Are you interested in talking more about Charleston? Attend the first Stowe Salon at Lunch on July 1st! Every Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the Stowe Center Visitor Center, we'll be engaged in a discussion on the pressing issues of the week. Bring your lunch and join us!