The Confederate Truck Flags in Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival

When a Confederate truck flag was seen on the hood of a truck in this year’s Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade, it raised questions in the village. Some people said Tom Dupree should remove it from his truck. Others said it was not a hate symbol and that the flag simply reflects a part of history.

The Confederate battle flag is a widely recognized symbol of Southern culture and heritage. The 13 stars represent the states that seceded from the Union during the Civil War. It’s also known as the Southern Cross or the Dixie flag. In the years after the Civil War, it became popular to display it at veterans’ events and as a symbol of Southern heritage. It appeared on the roof of the General Lee in the CBS series, “Dukes of Hazzard,” and on albums by Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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It also was embraced by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups who used it to physically and psychologically intimidate civil rights activists during the civil rights movement. Some state and local governments have attempted to limit the use of the battle flag on public property, but the Supreme Court ruled in Walker v. Tex. Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (2015) that a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag does not violate the First Amendment because it is government speech.

Libby Nelson is Vox’s policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. She has been a journalist for more than 10 years, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico.

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