South Carolina Lawmakers Vote to Take Down the 'Stars and Bars'

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - The state legislature in South Carolina Thursday approved removal of the Confederate flag from the capitol dome in Columbia. The move comes after months of bitter debate in the only state still to fly the banner of the South during the Civil War.

"I hope this represents the last battle of the Civil War," Democratic state Senator Dick Elliott told wire service reporters.

But the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said it will continue leading its economic boycott of the state under a plan that would fly the flag on a 30-foot pole at a monument commemorating the state's Civil War dead on Statehouse grounds.

The bill next goes to the desk of Governor Jim Hodges. He has said he would sign any agreement reached by the House and Senate. If he approves the legislation, the flag would come down July 1st.

The House approved the final version of the bill, 66-43, and the Senate followed minutes later with a 35-8 vote.

The agreement came after months of debate, marches and demonstrations that attracted thousands of flag supporters and opponents to the Statehouse.

The NAACP and many black lawmakers say the site in front of the Statehouse still would be too prominent. Earlier this week, Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, promised to expand its tourism boycott if the flag is moved to the monument. That boycott currently is 10 months old.

"I wonder if we've really come that far as a state. But the reality is, here we are," said Democratic State Representative Joe Neal, chairman of the House Black Caucus.

Mfume also said he would ask organized labor to support the boycott and urge executives of the motion picture and entertainment industries not to film or conduct any activities in South Carolina.

The flag has flown above the Statehouse since 1962 when it was raised to commemorate the Civil War centennial. Critics say it also was raised in defiance of the civil rights movement.

Supporters say the flag is an important part of the state's heritage while opponents say it represents slavery and racism.

The flag that would be flown at the monument is a square version of the rectangular flag that now flies above the capitol dome. Both flags feature the familiar blue cross with white stars on a red background, commonly referred to as the "stars and bars."