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Historian says state flag issue misunderstood

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
March 9, 2001
Misconceptions and misunderstood historical events surround the Mississippi State flag and are influencing voters' opinions about whether it should be changed, says one historian.
Hewitt Clarke, a native of Meridian and now a resident of Houston, Texas, has written three histories about Mississippi during the Civil War period.
Mississippi voters go to the polls April 17 to decide whether to replace the Southern Cross in the canton corner with two circles of stars one recognizing the 13 original colonies, the other with six stars representing the flags that have flown over state. A large star in the middle would represent the state.
Clarke says that the problems that led to the Civil War began in the 1600s when people started settling the country. He said the Puritans of the Northeast and the Cavaliers of Virginia didn't get along in England and they didn't like each other any better when they arrived in the New World.
Clarke said it was not uncommon for states to talk about secession in the early history of the United States, and it came to a head in 1861 when the North imposed high tariffs on the South.
Clarke conceded that the use of the Confederate flag by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan skews people's opinions.
Clarke is the author of three books, "Thunder in Meridian," "Bloody Kemper," and his latest, "He Saw The Elephant," which is about a Confederate naval officer from Jackson who is buried in Meridian.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.