South Carolina’s battle over the flying of the Confederate flag came to and end today (July 10), as state troopers lowered the flag from its post on the state capitol grounds. But the issue was still up for debate a few hours north on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
A day earlier, US congressman John Lewis, famed civil rights activist, rose to the floor of the House of Representatives to call on his colleagues to ban the flying of the Confederate flag on federal grounds.
“My heart is heavy,” Representative Lewis said. “I thought that we had come much farther.”
Lewis’s speech came after House Republicans sent a bill to ban the Confederate flag from the Capitol Grounds back to committee, effectively kicking the can down the road. That same day, a Republican congressman from California had proposed an amendment to another bill that would allow the flag to continue to fly at some federal cemeteries.
Lewis spoke of his childhood in Mobile, Alabama during the days of Jim Crow and seeing signs saying “white” and “colored.”
“The only place we would see those signs today would be in a book, in a museum, or on a video,” he said, drawing a contrast to the enduring symbol of the Confederate flag. ”Why can’t we move to the 21st century?”
“We need to bring down the flag,” he continued.
Lewis also recalled marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 to protest voting discrimination in the city. During the march, the subject of last year’s acclaimed film Selma, Lewis and other marchers were beaten by officers wearing the Confederate flag on their helmets in a day that became known as Bloody Sunday.
“I don’t want to go back, and as a country we must not go back,” Lewis said of Bloody Sunday. “We must go forward and create a community that recognizes us as human beings.”