The Confederate Flag and the First Amendment

South Carolina Statehouse

Protesters hold signs as they chant during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

In the wake of last week’s shooting at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C., and a fresh Supreme Court decision about specialty license plates and offensive imagery, the Confederate battle flag has taken center stage in national discussions about race, history and free speech. There are various opportunities at the Newseum to study and debate the flag and its impact.

The Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages exhibit has featured the controversy extensively this week, as newspaper front pages across the country have aggressively covered the call to remove the flag from the South Carolina state house. Our daily Top Ten feature has consistently focused on the national conversation about the flag.

In our Cox First Amendment Gallery, a special section on students’ rights tells the story of Kentucky high school senior Jacqueline Duty, who sued her school district when she was barred from senior prom because of her dress — a sequined representation of the Confederate flag. The Newseum Education department offers a comprehensive case study about the “rebel prom dress” that suggests guidelines for student discussion and critical thought on the issue.

The Newseum Institute’s David L. Hudson Jr. provides analysis of this week’s Supreme Court decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in which the court ruled that Texas could deny requests from a group that wanted to create specialty license plates displaying the Confederate battle flag. Newseum Institute chief executive officer Gene Policinski writes that although the Walker decision seems rooted in the court of public opinion, it’s not good news for the First Amendment.

Do you believe state governments should be able to deny issuing license plates that feature the Confederate flag? Vote in our poll on newseum.org and tweet your opinions to @NewseumInst.

From the Newseum Institute

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