Confederate Flag Day

Confederate Flag Day is an annual Arkansas state holiday celebrated the Saturday before Easter, officially established in 1957. Efforts in the twenty-first century to remove the day as an official state holiday have proven to be unsuccessful.

The holiday became official in the state with the passage of Act 124 of 1957. Signed into law on February 28, 1957, by Governor Orval Faubus, the enabling legislation simply denotes the Saturday before Easter as Confederate Flag Day. The brief text of the act does not include any information on how the holiday should be celebrated. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) had promoted the holiday at their meetings, and representatives of the UDC were present when Faubus signed Act 124 into law.

The holiday existed before the legislation passed. A newspaper article mentioned members of the Children of the Confederacy selling Confederate flags on the streets of Hope (Hempstead County) on Saturday, March 31, 1956, the day before Easter. Earlier mentions of the holiday appear in publications from other southern states, including in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1926.

Efforts to repeal the law or change the date were launched in 1997 with a bill filed in the House of the Arkansas General Assembly. The bill would not only have abolished the holiday, but it would have also removed any criminal penalty for the desecration of Confederate flags. The bill died in the Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. Another effort in 2021 began with two bills introduced in the House to abolish the holiday. House Bill 1203, sponsored by Representative Andrew Collins, went to the Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs and did not advance. A second bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Representative Austin McCollum with six cosponsors, was introduced on April 12, 2021. House Bill 1916 called for the replacement of Confederate Flag Day with a new holiday called Arkansas Day. The House passed the bill 80–7 on April 15, 2021, and the bill went to the Senate’s State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee did not pass the bill, and it died.

News reports detailing the 2021 efforts erroneously reported that the holiday was established in response to the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). This is incorrect, as the holiday was established on February 28, 1957, with the crisis emerging about six months later. However, the holiday was established just two days after Faubus signed into law Acts 83–86, which, collectively, were designed to preserve segregation by means of, among other things, creating the state Sovereignty Commission.

For additional information:
“Act 124.” Acts: Proposed Constitutional Amendments of the Sixty-First General Assembly of the State of Arkansas. Camden: The Hurley Company, 1957.

“All Around the Town.” Hope Star, March 28, 1956, p. 1.

“Arkansas House Votes to End State’s Confederate Flag Day.” Southwest Times Reporter, April 19, 2021. Online at https://www.swtimes.com/story/news/2021/04/19/confederate-flag-day-arkansas-house-votes-end/7283561002/ (accessed May 10, 2022).

“Ready for Confederate Flag Day.” Biloxi Daily Herald, August 19, 1926, p. 2.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 05/10/2022