A reporter for the Florida State College at Jacksonville student newspaper, The Campus Voice, recently requested an interview for a story she was writing on the recent controversies over the display of the Confederate battle flag above various government grounds or buildings in southern states. After some hesitation, I granted the request, and as is common with these types of stories, only a small amount of the information I provided could be used in the story (which was no fault of the reporter, who did a fine job with the limited space she was provided), and so I figured I would provide some additional commentary here.
First, I should mention that I am not a historian of pre-Civil War southern U.S. history. Instead, I am a historian of medieval Europe, so this is not the primary focus of my research or publications. Nevertheless, having grown up in the south, moving there from Pittsburgh when I was a kid, I have been exposed to various narratives of southern history most of my life. I also took considerable coursework on the topic as an undergraduate and graduate student and I later taught several lower level courses on American history as a graduate student and professor. In light of the interview, there are a couple of points that I want to be very clear about.
First, I do not think the Confederate battle flag should be flown above any U.S. government buildings or properties. Because this view will undoubtedly be controversial with a number of my friends or acquaintances, many of whom I care very deeply about, let me offer my reasons here.