The Slatest

Tennessee Has Record Number of Confederate Flag License Plates Three Years After Charleston Shooting

A man wrapped in a Confederate flag stands in front of a Confederate statue at a rally.
Demonstrators hold Confederate flags during a White Lives Matter rally on Oct. 28 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The state of Tennessee has seen a surge of drivers buying Confederate flag license plates in the three years since a racially motivated mass shooting in a Charleston church led states, including Tennessee, to remove symbols of the Confederacy from public property, according to a report from the Tennessean.

The data, collected by the state, are based on purchases of the Sons of Confederate Veterans plate, which is emblazoned with a Confederate battle flag. The 3,273 plates active in June, according to the Tennessean, represent a 72 percent increase since 2015, when the movement to take down Confederate flags and monuments began. The plate has been sold since 2004.

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The Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization with chapters in several states, is dedicated to promoting a “Lost Cause” version of Civil War history, and its efforts are often focused on erecting and preserving monuments to Confederate figures. According to the Tennessean, the Sons of Confederate Veterans made $57,700 from the plates—each for a $61.50 fee—in the 2018 fiscal year.

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James Patterson, a leader in the Tennessee branch of the organization, told the Tennessean that most of that money would go toward the placement of Confederate monuments on private property, the restoration of Confederate cemeteries, and the conservation of Civil War artifacts.

While part of the increased demand can likely be attributed to a push by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to promote the plates, Patterson said it has more to do with public resentment and defensiveness over “all the anti-Confederate rhetoric that’s been going on.”

A study published in June found that more than 100 monuments and symbols of the Confederacy have been removed since a white man killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston. Hundreds more remain.

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