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The Confederate Battle Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag

America’s Most Embattled Emblem

John M. Coski

ISBN 9780674019836

Publication date: 04/30/2006

In recent years, the Confederate flag has become as much a news item as a Civil War relic. Intense public debates have erupted over Confederate flags flying atop state capitols, being incorporated into state flags, waving from dormitory windows, or adorning the T-shirts and jeans of public school children. To some, this piece of cloth is a symbol of white supremacy and enduring racial injustice; to others, it represents a rich Southern heritage and an essential link to a glorious past. Polarizing Americans, these "flag wars" reveal the profound--and still unhealed--schisms that have plagued the country since the Civil War.

The Confederate Battle Flag is the first comprehensive history of this contested symbol. Transcending conventional partisanship, John Coski reveals the flag's origins as one of many banners unfurled on the battlefields of the Civil War. He shows how it emerged as the preeminent representation of the Confederacy and was transformed into a cultural icon from Reconstruction on, becoming an aggressively racist symbol only after World War II and during the Civil Rights movement. We gain unique insight into the fine line between the flag's use as a historical emblem and as an invocation of the Confederate nation and all it stood for. Pursuing the flag's conflicting meanings, Coski suggests how this provocative artifact, which has been viewed with pride, fear, anger, nostalgia, and disgust, might ultimately provide Americans with the common ground of a shared and complex history.

Praise

  • Few emblems in American history have provoked stronger passions than the battle flag of the vanquished Confederacy. To some it symbolizes honor and independence; to others, hatred and slavery. This highly charged icon has finally found the fair and fact-based treatment it so desperately needs. John Coski probes every aspect of the flag's complex history, from Civil War to Civil Rights, from rebel icon to NASCAR kitsch. As readable as it is incisive, The Confederate Battle Flag shows how reactions to the banner have revealed fault lines in our culture from Appomattox to the present day.

    —Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

Author

  • John M. Coski is Historian and Library Director at The Museum of the Confederacy.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 1-1/8 x 5-5/8 x 9 inches
  • Belknap Press

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