July 14th, 2014

Federal Court Rules Texas Must Issue Confederate Flag License Plate

In a 2-1 decision released on July 14, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas violated the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (SCV) First Amendment rights when it rejected its application for a group license plate in 2011. “By rejecting the plate because it was offensive, the board discriminated against Texas SCV's view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage,” the majority wrote.

The propose plate features the group's logo, a Confederate battle flag framed on four sides by the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896.” A faint image of the Confederate flag also serves as the plate’s background.

More than a generation after the Civil War, Southern whites began asserting their social and cultural dominance by embracing a revisionist history that portrayed the Civil War as a conflict in which the Confederate cause was heroic, honorable, and deserving of tribute. The conflict was recast as one unrelated to the institution of slavery, and the lesson of the Civil War as well as the suffering of generations of enslaved black people was lost. This myth ignored the true brutality of that time period and distorted our national memory of the intermingled links between American slavery, the Civil War, and race.

Invocation of Confederate pride and identity accompanied white resistance to civil rights and racial equality during and following Reconstruction, at the height of the civil rights movement, and well into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In response to the Fifth Circuit ruling, NAACP Texas State Conference president Gary Bledsoe said the flag “marginalizes American citizens and permits people to remind us daily that we were slaves and ancestors of the plate bearers owned our ancestors.” Nine other states, including Alabama, authorize license plates featuring images of the Confederate flag, all designed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.