Military Park removes some Confederate items from store
Published 12:44 pm Thursday, June 25, 2015
By lunchtime Thursday, almost every trace of the Confederate battle flag had been removed from the bookstore inside Vicksburg National Military Park.
A single figurine of a Confederate soldier carrying a historically actuate battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia — often simply referred to as the Confederate battle flag — was the only gift with the flag that remained on sale, hours after the National Park Service issued a directive halting sales of items featuring the controversial flag.
“We have maybe a handful of items that feature the image on them,” VNMP ranger Ray Hamel said.
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Staff of the Eastern National Bookstore inside the park’s Visitor Center removed the flags and coasters, mugs, clothing and several other items featuring the battle flag.
Other items featuring the First National Confederate Flag and Bonnie Blue Flag were also pulled as the park service’s directive used the terms “battle flag and Confederate flag ambiguously,” Hamel said.
“We’re going to have to wait and get some guidance,” Hamel said. “I’m sure we’re not the only park wondering about this today.”
The Confederate battle flag was one of the top selling items in the park’s bookstore and gift shop.
“Of all the flags we have here, that has been a popular one,” Hamel said.
The Mississippi state flag — an amalgamation of the First National Confederate Flag and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia — remained for sale Thursday.
The items were removed under direction of National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
“All sales items in parks are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park. Any stand-alone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores,” Jarvis said in a press release. “All superintendents and program managers will personally evaluate which sales items fit this description, have educational value, and are appropriate for the site.”
The National Park Service operates more than 70 parks and historical sites directly related to the history of the Civil War. Soldiers from the Confederacy flew the battle flag at many of those sites, including Vicksburg.
The design featuring a St. Andrew’s Cross and 13 stars was incorporated into the second and third national flags of the Confederacy.
The flag has recently stirred controversy after the shooting death of nine church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Police have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof who has been charged with nine counts of murder. Investigators say Roof was motivated by white supremacist ideology and had posed for photos before the shooting with the Confederate battle flag.
“As that discussion spread across the country, one of our largest cooperating associations, Eastern National, began to voluntarily remove from the park stores that it manages any items that depict a Confederate flag as its primary feature,” Jarvis said. “I’ve asked other cooperating associations, partners and concession providers to withdraw from sale items that solely depict a Confederate flag.”
Books and DVDs featuring Confederate flags on their covers remained on the shelves Thursday. About half the books on sale in the VNMP store feature some type of Confederate flag on the cover.
Confederate flags and gifts remain for sale at the Old Court House Museum and the Old Depot Museum, and interest from customers has increased since debate over the Civil War-era flag began, directors of both museums said.
“There has been a run on them,” Old Court House Museum curator Bubba Bolm said. “People from all over the U.S. have been trying to buy these flags.”
Bolm said he placed an order this week for 150 battle flags. Old Depot Museum director Lamar Roberts said he also ordered battle flags this week after an increase in sales.
“That’s what a lot of people come here for,” Roberts said. “We plan to keep selling them as long as we can get them.”