Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is defending a star on the Arkansas Flag representing the state's role in the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Calls to remove official confederate symbolism in southern states have grown louder after a white supremacist who regularly displayed the flag killed nine members of an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Hutchinson spoke on CNBC Wednesday, indicating that regardless of Arkansas's role in upholding the institution of slavery during the Civil War, the state's involvement in the Confederacy remains a part of history.
“You cannot deny history. And so I think whether it's our connection to Spain or whether it's our connection to France...You know Spain had a Spanish inquisition at one point. I don't think you can simply erase all of that,” he said
Critics of confederate symbolism contend that it represents hatred and racism. Hutchinson He the star representing the state's role in the Confederacy is not meant to evoke divisiveness.
“I don't see our flag in that context. We'll see whether there's greater concerns raised but to me it's a moment of history and it's not a symbol of divisiveness,” he said.
According to State Capitol historian David Ware, an original state flag design was officially adopted in 1913, with three stars in the center to indicate three nations of which Arkansas was a part: Spain, France and the United States.
In 1923, the legislation was passed to add a fourth star to represent the Confederacy.
“[And] in 1924 that design was modified to put one star above the state's name and three stars arranged in a triangle below. And the one star above the name was to represent the Confederate States of America,” Ware says.
He says the General Assembly would have to enact legislation in order to alter the flag, but until now it was relatively unknown that a star on the flag explicitly represented the Confederacy of 1861 to 1865.
“As far as I know there has not been controversy over the flag's design or up to this point, the inclusion of that confederate star. And I would say that most people—unless they remember their Arkansas history class—don't even know the confederate star is represented on there.”
Ware is a member of the Friends of KUAR/KLRE Board.