With a remastered 25th anniversary version of his watershed The Civil War re-airing on PBS in September, it was only a matter of time before someone asked Ken Burns for his opinion on the national debate over the Confederate battle flag.
Burns appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Thursday to discuss the flag, whose legacy has become a topic of debate since nine people were killed inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Charleston, S.C., June 18. The man charged with the murders, Dylann Roof, had posted on a website multiple pictures of himself posing with the flag once flown by the Confederate States of America.
Burns said that the flag symbolizes not heritage but opposition to civil rights. As a post on Vox quoted, Burns said that South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, had a specific reason for seceding — and it wasn’t states’ rights.
“I think what happens is that we build up over time the sense of an excuse about why it came,” Burns said. “If you read . . . South Carolina’s articles of secession in November — after [Abraham] Lincoln’s election of 1860 — they don’t mention states’ rights, they don’t mention nullification. They mention slavery over and over again.”
He later added, “Those [Confederate] flags came in after Brown v. Board of Education. This is not about heritage. This is about resistance to civil rights.”