Politics

Here's the Powerful Speech That Helped Remove the Confederate Flag

On Wednesday night in the South Carolina House of Representatives, when prospects looked grim for a vote to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds, Rep. Jenny Horne (R) spoke up. Her voice was hoarse from a long day of arguing; the whole process took 13 hours. Her speech was brief -- around four minutes -- but it was pivotal, Horne believes. The House ended up voting to bring down the flag.

"At that point we were losing the vote," Horne told the Washington Post. "It was going south. If what I did changed the course of the debate, and I do believe it did, then it needed to be done. Because that flag needed to come down a long time ago."

Her words, which can be heard in the video below, were unscripted but powerful. She explained -- despite what colleagues in the House were stating -- that the flag was not just about heritage. She then revealed that she's a descendent of Jefferson Davis (who was the south's leader during the Civil War and president of the Confederacy), but that the flag was not about her, it was about the people of South Carolina -- all of them.

"I’m sorry. I have heard enough about heritage," she stated in her impassioned speech. "I have a heritage. I am a lifelong South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off the statehouse grounds."

The vote to remove the flag, which Horne feared would be delayed by amendments and other "stall tactics," did eventually happen. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is expected to sign the bill at 4:00 PM ET, and the flag will be removed in a ceremony on Friday.

Debate over the flag was sparked after a 21-year-old white gunman shot and killed nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. The shooter, who was racially motivated and identified as a white supremacist, had posed with the battle flag -- a symbol of hatred and bigotry.

 
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The attack instantly sparked calls for the flag's removal out of respect for those who died at Emanuel AME. Politicians, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Haley, joined the call to bring down the flag.

 
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The process, as evidenced by Rep. Horne's speech, was not simple. A compromise in 2000 that moved the flag from the capitol dome to its current place on capitol grounds above a Civil War memorial required that at least a two-thirds majority, or supermajority, of the South Carolina Legislature had to vote for any future removal. The South Carolina State Senate voted earlier this week to remove the flag, and the bill then moved to the House of Representatives, where after hours of debate, the body voted for the flag to be taken down.