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June 10, 2009

History of racial tension not behind nixing of Confederate flag brochures

CUMBERLAND — A brochure explaining the history of the Confederate flag never made it into the hands of Allegany County students last spring, but racial tension wasn’t the overtly stated reason.

The glossy brochure, produced by Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization, includes a rendering of the Christian cross and a depiction of St. Andrew, who, the brochure says, “was crucified by the Romans on an ‘X’ shaped cross for being Christian. The St. Andrews Cross is in the pattern for many Confederate flags.”

Ed Taylor, president of the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization, said he received the go-ahead last March from school officials to distribute the brochure, which includes color renderings of four versions of the flag, including the most widely recognized “Confederate Battle Flag.”

But in April, after 1,800 brochures had been printed and delivered to two middle schools, Superintendent Bill AuMiller changed his mind.

Allegany County schools made national headlines in 2008 after a number of racial incidents led Fort Hill High School’s principal to ban wearing or displaying the Confederate flag on school property. Groups of concerned citizens formed on both sides of the issue.

“I was told they were just putting out factual information about the war,” AuMiller said Tuesday night, just hours after a closed Board of Education hearing when Taylor appealed the decision. A board policy stipulates that the superintendent has the authority to review all printed materials distributed for free at schools.

‘When it came out, there were some misrepresentations — some political messages and religious symbols,” said AuMiller, who gave preliminary approval for Taylor’s project before the brochures were printed. “That’s where I had a problem with it.”

The board didn’t rule on the matter Tuesday, but will likely make a decision in the coming weeks, said Karen Treber, vice president. AuMiller, who retires at the end of this month, will be replaced July 1 by David Cox.

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