Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cultural Symbols of the Old South Clash with Spirit of the Olympics Series: The Georgia State Flag, with Its Confederate Emblem, Will Fly over State-Owned Buildings but Not over City Hall., MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN - STAFF 2) FLYING HIGH: The US Flag Flies Next to the Georgia State Flag at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. since the Dome Is State-Owned, Georgia's Flag, with Its Confederate Battle Emblem, Will Remain Flying during the Games., JOHN KUNTZ/REUTERS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cultural Symbols of the Old South Clash with Spirit of the Olympics Series: The Georgia State Flag, with Its Confederate Emblem, Will Fly over State-Owned Buildings but Not over City Hall., MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN - STAFF 2) FLYING HIGH: The US Flag Flies Next to the Georgia State Flag at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. since the Dome Is State-Owned, Georgia's Flag, with Its Confederate Battle Emblem, Will Remain Flying during the Games., JOHN KUNTZ/REUTERS

Article excerpt

To many Americans, Confederate symbols have been as much a part of the South as grits and the cajun two-step.

But as Atlanta prepares to welcome the world to the Centennial Olympic Games next week, the Southern capital is busy sanitizing its history - including taking down the Confederate flag and downplaying slave traditions - to promote itself as an international city.

The South has long battled with its thorny past, reexamining its Civil War roots and racial practices. But with more than 2 million visitors and 10,000 athletes from around the world about to descend on the region, the cultural tensions are resurfacing.

"What's happening is Southerners as a group don't know how to share the past with each other yet, and therefore they can't figure out how to share it with the rest of the world," says James Cobb, a history professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The issue is being tested in several different ways:

*Atlanta city officials have taken down the Georgia state flag, which features a Confederate battle emblem, from city hall and county buildings. In its, place they've hoisted the flag that flew before the "stars and bars" was added in 1956. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games is prohibiting flags at venues other than those of participating countries. ACOG says the ban is a long-standing Games tradition. The Georgia flag will only fly over state-owned buildings.

*Commercial sponsors of a historic festival in Roswell, a suburb north of Atlanta, have asked city officials to delete the word "antebellum" from the festival's title and cancel a Civil War encampment. A city historic group then decided to remove a marker indicating where slave quarters once stood on the grounds of a white-columned mansion.

*Stone Mountain Park, site of the Olympics' tennis, cycling, and archery venues, and known for its large granite carving of Confederate generals, has opened a new museum that examines the park's history. But park officials have opted to show the positive impact people have had on the park and not include exhibits on the Ku Klux Klan, which held rallies and cross burnings on or near the mountain into the 1980s.

Historians say the conflict over how to treat Southern history and culture is something the Olympics may help clarify. The focus on the South during the Olympics may "accelerate the process of either forcing black and white Southerners to come to some sort of common agreement about their past ... or to admit that they're divided rather than united by it," Professor Cobb says.

Some find the efforts to treat history gingerly offensive. But the flag, perhaps more than any other symbol, ignites the most contentious debate. …

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