View single post by HankC
 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:47 pm
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Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
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Other than football, and I suppose NASCAR, the Confederate flag has limited exposure at sporting events. Football is what I know so I'll limit my remarks to that endeavor. I did not see the ESPN production, so it may either refute or reinforce my own research and recollections ;)

College football, invented and widely played in the North, was a regional sport through the 1940s. The slow emergence of bowl games allowed better-funded northern teams more 'southern exposure' to the deep south college elevens. Until then, the squads of the upper south (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma) occasionally traveled north to play the football elite: Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, Yale, et al. In those days, it was considered normal for the northern team to bench any African-American players for the game and the southern team would bench their corresponding player as well. Much of the southern football identity in these games was that of under-funded, under-coached, under-uniformed team 'invading' the north in, perhaps, a 'lost cause'.

The first major breakthrough for southern college football came in 1934 when Alabama won the Rose Bowl over Washington. Upon their return to Tuscaloosa, the Tide were greeted with displays of the Alabama, US and Confederate flags.

Beginning in the late 1940s, it became standard practice for the cheering sections at UVa, UNC and Maryland to wave a large Confederate banner on their 'invasions' into 'hostile' northern territory to Princeton and Columbia. At the same time, the 'gentlemen's agreement' of player benchings slowly came to an end.

CSA banners at southern home games were unknown until 1948 when Chester Pierce, an African-American, substituted for Harvard's injured defensive end at a Virginia home game. This was the first integrated college football game south of the Mason-Dixon line and the first appearance of a black player on the turf of UVa's Scott Stadium. Confederate banners appeared in abundance for that home game. As a side note, the replaced injured player was Robert F. Kennedy.

Also in 1948, the 'Dixiecrats' bolted the Democratic party over Truman's civil rights plank. Dixiecrats handed out small CSA flags at Ole Miss home football games that fall as an overt defense of white supremacy and segregation.

Somehow, a seemingly unrelated fad in Confederate flags and caps boomed in 1951. Similar to hula hoops and coonskin caps the fad busted a quickly as it appeared.

In 1954 the Supreme Court issued it's unanimous Brown v. Board of Education case and all bets for and against the CBF became moot as it gained it's new and continuing meanings.

I'll wrap up by saying, before massive resistance to the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-50s, popular usage of the Confederate battle flag had ambiguous meanings for white southern identity. It no longer was the exclusive domain of Lost Causers and increasingly reflected contemporary Southern issues as the United States integrated both culturally and socially. In young men's hands on segregated college campuses the flag became an icon of an imagined warrior, but genteel. class.

That's my interpretation of the early days of southern college football and the Confederate flag.





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