In the aftermath of the June 17 terror attack in a South Carolina church, many people have reawakened to the awful connotations of the Confederate battle flag. The issue has reached South Burlington, whose high school sports teams have been called the Rebels since the school’s founding in 1962. There have been calls to change the name to something that better reflects an increasingly diverse community.
Defenders of the nickname have called the controversy “crazy” and insisted the name “could mean a lot of different things.” One pointed out that Americans were the “rebels” in the Revolutionary War, so maybe that’s what it means.
Well, the Burlington Free Press came up with a creative approach. It sent reporter Haley Dover to leaf through SBHS yearbooks from the 1960s. And what did she find?
Confederate battle flags all over the damn place.
In the school’s first yearbook from 1962, sketches of Civil War era soldiers with their swords and muskets can be found placed among the student photos. The inside cover of the yearbook from 1964 is the image of a fall mountain scene and a Confederate solider holding the southern-rooted flag. Numerous pages throughout the 1960s show the flag hanging behind the basketball team or behind two Key Club members shaking hands. Cheerleaders pose with the banner on the football field.
Obviously, the Rebel nickname was inspired by the Confederacy.
Now, I don’t think anyone at SBHS was overtly racist back then. They were just completely clueless, in what was then a lily-white community and state.
There’s still a lot of that cluelessness around today. Indeed, there’s a prime example in the Free Press article itself.