UAH Professor John Kvach discusses the Confederate Flag controversy
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Professor John Kvach teaches Southern History, specifically the Civil War and Reconstruction, at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. This week he dropped by WHNT News 19 to give his expert perspective on a controversial issue.
For years there has been a controversy surrounding many southerners’ nostalgia for the Confederate Flag and the reasons the south seceded. One of the most hotly argued reasons is that the south seceded for states’ rights, but many scholars and the vast majority of historians would say the reason the Civil War was fought was because southerners wanted to maintain slavery.
“Yes, that’s absolutely the clearest way to put it. It’s what I tell my students when they take my Civil War classes,” said Professor Kvach. “The first thing they have to realize is yes, we can talk about states’ rights, we can talk about taxation. We can talk about all those things. But ultimately it’s state rights to do what? To own a human being. States’ rights to do what? To go back in and find a fugitive slave. For states’ rights argument to work you have to look at what the state’s righters were fighting for. Ultimately what you have to come to grips with is the Civil War was primarily about slavery.”
With all of the recent controversy surrounding the flag there are many different, strong opinions coming to the forefront. The big question on everyone’s mind is what did the flag really symbolize to southerners after the war?
“There’s two histories of the Confederate flag. There’s a 19th century, and a 20th century history. The 19th century history is a history of men coming home, and feeling nostalgic and proud of the flag they fought under. And I don’t begrudge anyone that feeling,” said Kvach. “The 20th century history of the Confederate flag is where you take the flag and corrupt an original meaning and background during the segregationist movement in the 1950’s and you begin to create a sense of rally round the flag for people who were supportive of intolerance and injustice. And so the 19th century history is truly about heritage. The 20th century history is truly about hate. These two histories of the Confederate flag are important to recognize, because history is rarely black and white, always and never, and most of the time you’re going to find that history is somewhere in the grey matter. And so is the Confederate flag all good? No. Is the Confederate flag all bad? No, and so what that means is the Confederate flag can be bad in the wrong place. It can be fine and good in another place, and so what I say is…take it down from public buildings. Take it away from places where every American citizen is using as a taxpayer as a citizen, and put it in museums…put in memorials, put it in cemeteries…and those places are absolutely appropriate and fine. I don’t think anyone would begrudge them the fact that a Confederate flag does belong in a cemetery where Confederate soldiers are buried.”
Watch our entire three part conversation with John Kvach here: