Kentucky: Sons of Confederate Veterans Still Pushing in Paducah

PADUCAH, Ky. — In a new twist on an almost two-year-old controversy, the Paducah Sons of Confederate Veterans say they’ll stop pressing to participate in the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade, if the city will repeal an ordinance keeping them and the Confederate flag out of the procession.

The five-member Paducah Board of Commissioners meets again on April 23. It is unclear what the commission will do.

The commission approved the ban in 2017 and reaffirmed it earlier this year. Nonetheless, SCV members continue to show up at commission meetings. They promise to “cease their vigil” and not “take legal action against the City of Paducah” if the commission relents.

The Paducah SCV claims the Confederate flag has been “hijacked by hate groups over the years,” a common assertion among SCV and similar pro-Confederate groups in the old Confederate states and in loyal border states like Kentucky.

The groups insist that the Confederate flag represents “heritage not hate,” a message that’s also on tee shirts, bumper stickers, novelty license plates, banners, buttons and ball caps.

Heritage? Or hate?

What Confederate apologists insist is heritage “is hate and white supremacy,” said Dr. William Mulligan, a history professor at Murray State University. “The Confederate states seceded to preserve slavery.”

Dr. William Mulligan, history professor at Murray State University (photo by Berry Craig)
Dr. William Mulligan, history professor at Murray State University (photo by Berry Craig)

Mulligan said the Confederates themselves made no bones about why they opted for disunion.

South Carolina, the first state to secede, called on the fourteen other slaves states “to join us, in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States.”

Mississippi Confederates said they faced a choice: “we must either submit to degradation and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union.”

When Texas secessionists pulled out of the Union, they denounced “the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race and color – a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis praised human bondage as a worthy institution by which “a superior race” had transformed “brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers.”

Davis’ vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, was thankful the Confederacy was based “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

Davis was born in Kentucky, which didn’t secede, though not for lack of trying by the state’s noisy Confederate minority, notably newspaper editors and publishers.

“If the North shall succeed in their effort to conquer the Slave States, whatever else may happen, it is absolutely certain that slavery will be exterminated,” the Courier editorialized.The Louisville CourierLexington Statesman and Frankfort Yeoman were Kentucky’s main Confederate papers. They and the rest of the rebel press argued that only secession could preserve slavery and white supremacy.

The paper warned that if slavery were abolished, black kids would go to school with white kids, and black grownups could testify in court, sit on juries, vote, and compete with white adults “in the field, in the workshop, in all the pursuits of life.”

The Statesman challenged, “[will Kentucky ] by an alliance with States whose interests, sympathies and institutions are identified with her own, maintain and conserve African slavery, or place that institution under the ban of moral, religious and political proscription by entering a family where it is condemned by an overwhelming majority of those in power?”

The Yeoman was aghast that President Abraham Lincoln “plainly avowed the policy of elevating the negro race to the rank of equality with the white race, as indispensable to the very existence of the government.”

The Confederate flags

The Confederates had three official national flags and a battle flag; the latter flag is the one most familiar to most people. The battle flag was incorporated into the last two national flags. The second one was white; the third one was white with a red bar on the end.

Georgia editor William Tappan Thompson said the second national flag was particularly appropriate because “as a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”

He dubbed the flag “the white man’s flag.” Dr. Mulligan said the description would fit all Confederate flags, including the one the Paducah SCV want to display.