Since the killing of nine African Americans in a Charleston Church on June 17, a wave of activists, politicians, citizens, and civic and business leaders have called for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.
While it is well known that the flag was moved from the top of the State House dome in 2000 as part of a political compromise, it is less well known that public debate about the flag’s removal began much earlier. These WIS-tv news outtakes document one such moment in 1972. NAACP Field Director Isaac Williams eloquently states that flying the flag is “an obsolete gesture” that “represents an era of divisiveness” and “flagrant racism” in the country, and is inconsistent with the ideals of the founding fathers. Later, supporters of the flag’s presence over the State House cite its importance to and representation of South Carolina’s history.
USC’s own Dr. Bobby Donaldson says of the clip: “as we come to grips with the tragic loss of the Emanuel Nine in Charleston, this news footage is a striking reminder that the Confederate Battle Flag has sparked intense and heated debates among South Carolinians for decades. Ten years after the flag was raised above the dome, we hear up close as citizens address the contested meaning and history of an emblematic symbol of white Southern defiance and ancestral loyalty. Isaac Williams, who later became field director of the SC NAACP, was one among hundreds of African American students who protested segregation and white supremacy on the Statehouse grounds in March 1961--weeks before the Confederate Flag is displayed to mark the Centennial of the Civil War.”
Read more about the controversy that has surrounded the flag since it was raised over the State House on USC Libraries South Carolina Political Collections’ blog.