WMU News

South Carolina flag controversy

Feb. 18, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- As South Carolina braces for a presidential primary on Saturday, Feb. 19, a political struggle of another kind is brewing over flying the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol. Though previous attempts to remove the flag have failed, Dr. John Clark, a WMU assistant professor of political science and authority on southern politics says the time might be right to reach a compromise this time.

"The issue has been especially prominent in 1994, in 1997 and then again this year," Clark says. "I think the timing is better now for some kind of compromise. I think most people in South Carolina don't have especially strong feelings one way or the other."

Says Clark, "Most people are embarrassed by the way it makes the state look, and so they want to get past it; they want to get this behind them. If that involves compromising, then the surveys that I've seen suggest that that's where most South Carolina citizens are, even if that's not where most of their political leaders are right now."

Clark says the Confederate battle flag became a popular political symbol in the '60s in response to the growing Civil Rights movement. It was raised over the South Carolina state capitol in 1962 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War and was never taken back down.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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