Americans across the nation have criticized South Carolina for continuing to fly the Confederate battle flag on the state Capitol grounds as the country mourns the nine black worshippers who were gunned down by a young white man at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week. But South Carolina is not the only state that officially embraces its Confederate heritage. Georgia’s official state flag, based on an early version of the Confederate banner, is still flying this week after the church massacre.
The Georgia state flag appears different from what most Americans recognize as the Confederate flag. But it was actually fashioned from the first national flag of the Confederacy, which was dubbed the Stars and Bars, with Georgia’s coat of arms placed inside the circle of stars and the words “In God We Trust” written below, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
The previous state banner boasted the more familiar Confederate battle flag along with five others that had flown over Georgia in history beneath the large state seal. And for decades, Georgia’s state flag had the Confederate battle emblem as its centerpiece. The battle flag was originally the banner of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia but was adopted as a symbol of resistance to integration in the 1950s.
Georgia, where 31 percent of residents are black, has come under fire for holding on to its Confederate emblems. Last year, Georgia released a specialty license place that features the Confederate battle flag. The state-issued license tag enraged civil rights advocates, who said it was a racially charged symbol of oppression, WGCL-TV Atlanta reported. Remnants of Confederate symbols are reflected in the official flags of other Southern states, including Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Arkansas, according to ABC News.
The controversy over the Confederate flag boiled over last week after Dylann Roof killed black churchgoers at historic Emanuel AME Church downtown Charleston. Some photos of the 21-year-old white man show him holding a Confederate flag. On Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley, backed by many state politicians, called on the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol complex.