Originally created 09/12/99

Flag stirs powerful emotions



AIKEN -- The Confederate flag is more than a scrap of fabric waving in the breeze above South Carolina's Capitol.

It inspires diverse passions -- pride and pain, reverence and revulsion, heritage and hate.

All are emerging strongly amid an NAACP economic boycott of the state, called to protest inclusion of the naval jack, the Confederate States' navy flag, over the copper-plated Statehouse dome. The banner -- an elongated version of the square Confederate battle flag -- flies there below flags of the state and nation.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hopes the loss of black tourists' green dollars will persuade lawmakers to bring down the flag they say represents a dead dream built on the backs of slaves.

Those losses could be significant. In 1997, the last year for which figures are available, more than 2 million black tourists visited South Carolina and had an economic impact of $280 million and 4,800 jobs, the state's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism says.

The boycott was not supposed to begin officially until January, but several large conventions already have been canceled, including gatherings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and National Urban League.

Beginning today and continuing during the next few weeks, The Augusta Chronicle is exploring the broad spectrum of passions the Confederate banner evokes by looking at South Carolinians who care deeply about the flag.

Some of them love it.

Some of them hate it.

None is apathetic.

Together, they are the threads of a rich and colorful fabric -- all things Southern.

REACH

Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.