Recently, Black high school students in Rome, Ga., protested displays of the Confederate flag at their school and were subsequently suspended.
The flag remains a controversial symbol at times used to directly challenge and intimidate Black people demanding equality and justice.
Over the summer, PBS released a documentary exploring the history of what is commonly referred to as the Confederate Flag and the fight to remove it from the South Carolina state Capitol. A two part exploration, “Downing of a Flag” features interviews with Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Candidate Bakari Sellers and activist Bree Newsome.
The film is a South Carolina Education Television production in partnership with Strategic Films, founded by Duane Cooper, who also served as executive producer on the project. Cooper recounted the murders of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church and the subsequent debate around the flag as an impetus for the project.
“Instead of just talking about what happened in 2015, we thought ‘well, how about we just go back and start from the beginning of how this flag came to the grounds of the State House in South Carolina,” Cooper explained. “It was put up in 1961, in recognition of the centennial anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which also started in South Carolina.”
The documentary goes beyond the simplified heritage versus hate debate, interspersing commentary from elected officials, historians, and even members of the Sons of the Confederacy. Despite having a variety of voices, the documentary avoids trying to both sides the Confederate flag but provides context for understanding the debate.
“In going back to the beginning of when it first went up in South Carolina, it mirrored what was going on across the country, and specifically in the south,” Cooper continued. “And it wasn’t our goal to convince people by the end of the film if they believe the flag represents hate or heritage or whatever it’s allowing the experts on the issue to talk about it, and then by the end, I think folks can kind of make up their mind and determine exactly what this symbol represents.”
Cooper didn’t want the documentary to function as a debate but a free-flowing conversation, with context and good information. There are points in the film that focus on the broader history of the south, the Confederacy and even the process of enshrining the “lost cause” ideology across the country.
He also highlighted the need for more educational documentaries, given the lack of civic education and accurate history being taught in schools.
“It is a part of U.S. history, very important for U.S. history, for not just Black people, but for all Americans,” Cooper said. “There’s not a Black story, this is not a story of just African Americans; this is a story of America.”
Exonerated! Wrongly Convicted Black Folks Whose Names Have Been Cleared
1. Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil IslamSource:Getty 1 of 17
2. Juwan Deering2 of 17
3. Herbert Alford
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A Michigan man who spent nearly five years in custody is suing Hertz for failing to produce in a timely manner a receipt that would have proved his innocence long before he was convicted of a 2011 murder. https://t.co/kZaI5tdOv4— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 12, 2021
4. Walter Forbes
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“I don’t hold contempt for the people who lied to convict me ... The reason is selfish: I wasn’t going to allow them to destroy me," said Walter Forbes, freed and exonerated last week after 37 years with the help of @UofMInnocence. https://t.co/WfanIitchU— The Innocence Project (@innocence) December 14, 2020
5. Termaine Joseph Hicks
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An innocent Philadelphia man has been freed after spending 19 years in prison because two police officers wrongly claimed he’d raped a woman and then shot at them, when he’d in fact saved her from a different man .Attorneys for Termaine Joseph Hicks claim cops made up the story . pic.twitter.com/FJp5DQUMoQ— HJ (Hank) Ellison (@hjtherealj) December 18, 2020
6. Clifford Williams, Nathan Myers
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After a combined 86 years incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, Clifford Williams Jr. and his nephew, Nathan Myers, were exonerated and released last week! Mr. Myers was 18 when he was arrested and is now 61. Mr. Williams was 33 and is now 76. https://t.co/EH2qPCspEj— Equal Justice Initiative (@eji_org) April 5, 2019
7. Calvin BrightSource:WUSA9 7 of 17
8. Kevin Baker, Sean Washington
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Kevin Baker and Sean Washington received life terms in 1996 that were overturned on appeal in December https://t.co/MSWoxkwPzi— Courier-Post (@cpsj) February 4, 2020
9. Theophalis Wilson
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Theophalis Wilson was 17-years-old when he was falsely accused of a triple murder in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison. Now, 28 years later, he finally has his freedom. He spoke with @KeithJones https://t.co/mVDISp68hy pic.twitter.com/RQ2pEdZBfM— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) January 22, 2020
10. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart
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And they are out: Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walk out of the Baltimore city courthouse after 36 yrs for a crime they didn’t do: pic.twitter.com/5UDGWMZmOB— Tom Jackman (@TomJackmanWP) November 25, 2019
11. Deandre Charles11 of 17
12. Exonerated Five - Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise12 of 17
13. Anthony Ray Hinton
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Name: Anthony Ray Hinton, who was on Alabama’s Death Row for nearly 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. In 2018, he wrote about his experience in the NYT bestseller, The Sun Does Shine.— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) October 4, 2019
Occupation: Works in community education with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery pic.twitter.com/EwiaJueimb
14. Lamar Johnson14 of 17
15. Wilbert Jones
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Louisiana man freed from prison after serving 43 years for a crime he did not commit. Wilbert Jones was arrested in 1971 at the age of 19 and convicted of rape in 1974. A judge overturned his conviction weeks ago. He still had to pay $2,000 bail before becoming a free man today. pic.twitter.com/LYV4gbTPOf— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) November 15, 2017
16. Xavier DavisSource:Courtesy of Xavier Davis 16 of 17
17. Huwe Burton
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2,372nd Exon: Huwe Burton was convicted in 1991 for stabbing his mother to death when he was 16. He was exonerated on Jan 24th after an investigation showed that his confession was coerced and that his mother's real killer was likely a downstairs neighbor. https://t.co/TM3f76moQ5 pic.twitter.com/rsU1NlPr2y— Exoneration Registry (@exonerationlist) February 4, 2019
Interview: Documentary ‘Downing Of A Flag’ Explores History Of A Controversial Symbol was originally published on newsone.com