Mobile County says flags removed from the “Courtyard of Six Flags” display outside Government Plaza last week are going to be replaced soon, though the Third National Flag of the Confederacy — one of the six governments that have held dominion over Mobile — will likely not be returning.
Around the country, state and local governments have been grappling with how to handle Confederate monuments and statues that have been targeted by vandals in some places and the subject of peaceful protests in others. The city of Mobile removed a statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes last month.
Despite the timing, Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson told Lagniappe Friday the removal of the Third National Flag of the Confederacy and several others from the public display last week wasn’t politically motivated but was instead a part of ongoing exterior renovations at Government Plaza.
Several of the flags in the display, including the Confederate flag, had been worn over time and several had become damaged by the encroaching branches of nearby oak trees. With the exception of the flags of the United States and Alabama, all of them were removed last week and are expected to be replaced.
However, after some internal discussions, Hudson has said county officials plan to replace the Third National Flag of the Confederacy, which contains the controversial Confederate Battle Flag on its canton with the First National Flag of the Confederacy adopted at the beginning of the Civil War.
“Knowing what a flashpoint the Third National Flag is, and because it does contain that image of the Battle Flag, we think it would be appropriate to use the First instead,” Hudson said. “It was adopted and was used for at least two years, and we feel like that’s the more historically accurate of the two.”
Baldwin County’s official seal saw a similar adjustment in 2015 after commissioners voted to replace the Battle Flag with the First National Flag. The Battle Flag is probably the most recognizable flag used by the Confederacy because of its use in pop culture and its adoption by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Hudson said replacing the flag would be part of the ongoing renovations at Government Plaza that are also expected to include upgrades to the “Courtyard of Six Flags” display to add historical context about each of the flags the once flew over Mobile and the governments and time periods they represent.
Unlike some memorials to specific Confederate leaders, Hudson said the “Courtyard of Six Flags” isn’t intended to glorify the Confederacy or any of the nations that once governed the Mobile territory.
“We want to present a historical accounting of each of the flags that have flown over this area,” Hudson said. “This is to preserve and showcase history and to do so in a respectful and accurate way.”
According to Hudson, changing the flag would fall under the county administration’s purview, and unless one of her fellow commissioners objects to the change, it won’t require a public vote. However, Commission President Jerry Carl told Lagniappe he would prefer to see the matter discussed at a public meeting precisely because it has the potential to cause controversy among members of the community.
Despite his comments, Carl did not raise any questions about possible changes to the flag display during a special-called meeting Monday morning that addressed unrelated county business.
As for the flag changing in the future, Carl equated getting rid of the Confederate flag altogether with “erasing history” but said he would be fine with replacing the Third National Flag of the Confederacy with the earlier iteration if that’s more historically accurate in the full context of the display.
He told Lagniappe a team within the county administration has been asked to consult with John Sledge, an architectural historian for the city of Mobile, about which flag would be most appropriate historically.
“I want the flag that’s up there to be historically correct,” Carl said.
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