There is a certain awe-inspiring symmetry behind both raising and lowering the confederate flag in SC. Today the South Carolina House of Representatives voted 94-20 to remove the flag from state capitol grounds. This ruling comes in the wake of a massacre when a white supremacist murdered nine black worshipers after a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The massacre left nine dead including SC State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Dylann Roof, the admitted gunman, displayed a Confederate flag license plate on his getaway car and posed for numerous photos holding the same battle flag that flew above the Statehouse grounds as his victims’ funeral processions passed.
The history behind why the flag was raised however, is often neglected and overlooked. The flag was first hoisted on state grounds in 1961, as part of the centennial celebration of the firing on Fort Sumter, which opened the Civil War. Just weeks before the Confederate battle flag was first hoisted On Jan. 31, 1961, students from Friendship Junior College and others picketed McCrory’s on Main Street in Rock Hill to protest the segregated lunch counters at the business. They walked in, took seats at the counter and ordered hamburgers, soft drinks and coffee. The students were refused service and ordered to leave. When they didn’t, they were arrested.
Ten black students, 8 from Friendship Junior College, were arrested on Jan. 31, 1961, and convicted the following day after they refused to leave the all-white lunch counter in Rock Hill, during a sit in protest. The students, later referred to as The Friendship 9, made civil rights history with a new ‘Jail, No Bail’ take on the civil rights movement. The men were among the first to refuse to pay a fine accepting 30 days hard labor at the York County Prison Farm instead of a $100 fine in the midst of a colossal financial burden civil rights groups were facing as sit-in-protests became widespread in the south. This strategy allowed attention to the protest while the prison system paid the financial necessities of food, water, and shelter.
A York County judge tossed out the trespassing convictions against the former students, eight of whom are still living, on Jan. 28, 2015, saying the men, now in their 70s, should never have been charged in the first place.
Judge John C. Hayes III. said on the subject,
We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history, now, as to the Friendship Nine, is the time and opportunity to do so. Now is the time to recognize that justice is not temporal, but is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
It takes a broad understanding of the past to prepare safe guards for the future of humanity. After a brief glimpse into the past it is clear the confederate flag is no more than a symbol of hate and injustice. Today we provide safe guards for the future, and prepare our children for a less hateful environment. This is a mysterious symmetry between past and present, a salute to nine lost tragically, and above all a victory for equality and civil rights.
Featured image via Twitter/CBSEveningNews