Confederate battle flags (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Arizona's Confederate memorials aren't really about the state's history

Arizona's Confederate memorials are rooted in the state's opposition to racial equality, not Civil War history

Matthew Rozsa
June 8, 2017 5:37PM (UTC)

As a resident of Pennsylvania, I can recall plenty of occasions when I've seen Confederate flags flown on top of pickup trucks or flapping in the breeze on front lawns. When the owners are confronted, they invariably say something to the effect of, "I'm proud of my heritage."

Except Pennsylvania is north of the Mason-Dixon line and fought for the Union. Objectively speaking, the Confederacy is not part of Pennsylvania's heritage — which leaves racism as the only logical explanation for brandishing the stars-and-bars.

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A similar situation applies to Arizona, according to a recent report by the Phoenix New Times. African-American community leaders in that state are insisting that Governor Doug Ducey remove six Confederate memorials, and while Confederate sympathizers did briefly claim the lower half of the Arizona Territory for that would-be country during the Civil War, it was never formally acknowledged to have left the Union. More importantly, though, the Confederate memorials weren't erected during or even immediately after the Civil War.

They were erected between 1943 and 2010, with historian William Stoutamire telling the New Times that the motivation was opposition to integration.

"It’s a direct response to federal desegregation, Brown v. Board of Education, all the policies coming down on the federal level," Stoutamire explained to the New Times.

"The African-American population in Arizona is going to read [the choice to fly the Confederate flag over the State Capitol] as a very clear statement that the government is hostile to black interests, and specifically civil rights. Even if that’s not the intended message — and I would argue that it is — that’s how it's going to be received."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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