More than 150 years ago, in 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, setting off the conflict that became the Civil War. Now, in 2015, it is attempting to redefine its image: On July 9, both houses of the South Carolina state legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol in Columbia. This symbolic gesture won't put an end to the racial strife that has existed in South Carolina and the rest of the United States since the end of the Civil War. But at least it shows that the state's government will no longer celebrate a symbol that, for many, is synonymous with violence, racism and the legacy of slavery.
Many people throughout the country called for a removal of Confederate flags from state capitols after the racially motivated terrorist attack at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., three weeks ago. That shooting left nine African-American churchgoers dead.
Some citizens, particularly those living in Southern states, argue that the Confederate flag is a symbol of innocuous, neutral Southern pride. However, many others believe that it cannot be removed from the hatred it originally represented — and which it still does, both to many minorities and to the hate groups that still display it proudly as one of their symbols.
Watch South Carolina Representative Jenny Horne — a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis — passionately call for the removal of the Confederate flag:
"If we [don't pass] this bill, we are telling the people of Charleston we don't care about you, we do not care that someone used this symbol of hate to slay eight innocent people who were worshipping their god."— State Representative Jenny Horne
Horne's powerful words helped sway her peers. The state representative, who personally knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the Charleston shooting and a state senator, said her colleagues would be dishonoring his wife and daughters if they allowed the flag to continue being flown. She added that it's not about "heritage," it's about what the people she represents want.
The governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, plans to sign the bill removing the flag from the Columbia Statehouse at 4 p.m. on July 9. The flag must be taken down within 24 hours of her signature. The Confederate flag was originally placed at the capital in 1961, to celebrate the Confederacy’s 100-year anniversary. It was kept up the following year as a protest of the civil rights movement and has flown above the statehouse ever since.
In a bipartisan effort, South Carolina’s congress voted 93 to 27 to remove the Confederate flag. It will be placed in a museum.