ELON, N.C. – An Elon University class that will be available again next spring will continue to track how people feel about the Confederate flag.
Students in the "Cultures of the South" class ask 18– to 30-year-olds how they feel about the flag. The questions are for northerners and southerners, men and women and blacks and whites.
Professor Tom Mould hopes after one more class he’ll be able to track how perceptions about the flag have changed since the first class was offered in 2003.
Mould said the class also teaches students about how the perceptions of the flag changed during an important time in the nation’s history.
“People are reinterpreting the Confederate flag in the 20th century in the context of the Civil Rights Movement and that's where you get this very close connection between this flag as a symbol of racism,” said Mould.
Mould said that while many people associate the flag with the Civil War, at the time it wasn’t seen as a unifying symbol of the fight between the North and the South.
“It was never an official flag of the Confederacy in terms of a national flag, it was a battle flag and it didn't have a huge presence, honestly, during the Civil War,” said Mould.
The anthropology and folklore professor said in the 1950s, when the Supreme Court mandated school integration, some states started adopting the flag as a sign of defiance against a law they didn’t agree with.
“There seems to be a pretty close correlation to a kind of ‘snubbing your nose at the government’ that said states needed to desegregate their schools,” said Mould.
Even with that association, Mould said it’s best to move forward with caution as some governments discuss how to disassociate themselves with the flag.
“This is just my opinion-- but it’s dangerous to get into a scrubbing of the historical past,” said Mould. “There has to be a balance between recognizing that historical past and recognizing the damage it continues to do.”