Du Bois’s rebuke to Davis’s restored reputation was withering: “Judged by the whole standard of Teutonic civilization,” he concluded, “there is something noble in the figure of Jefferson Davis; and judged by every canon of human justice, there is [also] something fundamentally incomplete about that standard.” The problem, he submitted, lay with the idea of civilization itself.
That comes from here, but I would like to look into Dubois’ speech and the question of the representation of Jefferson Davis more fully. This critique of “civilization” is key: how many were saying this at the time (there was Mark Twain’s “To the person sitting in darkness” just a few years later, on civilization, colonialism, and imperialism). Send me more references.
The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder.
That is Ta-Nehisi Coates. (Why do people now say “hate” for “hatred”?)
I just watched Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1977 performance of “Sweet Home Alabama” at the Oakland Coliseum, famously played with a huge Confederate flag as backdrop, and noticed that the crowd was all white and was waving that flag, too. In Oakland.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
That is the Vice President of the CSA, speaking in Savannah in 1861. White supremacy is a vanguard, not a retrograde arrangement, he goes on to say.
As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.
As a national emblem it is significant of our higher cause [,] the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity and barbarism.
That is William T. Thompson of Savannah, the editorial writer and co-designer of the national flag of the CSA that incorporates the battle flag still flown today. And by now you should be sure what the “heritage” the flag represents, is.