U.S. Flag An Act of Defiance for Voting Rights Activists


Matt Herron is the photographer of this award-winning photo. His description of the photo is excerpted from an interview on the Telling Their Stories website. See more of Herron’s photos at Take Stock.

By Matt Herron

herron-flagThe picture was taken at the side entrance to the Governor’s mansion on Capital Street in Jackson on June 17, 1965.

The boy is Anthony Quinn, aged 5. His mother, Mrs. Ailene Quinn of McComb, Mississippi and her children were trying to see Governor Paul Johnson. They wanted to protest against the election of five Congressmen from districts where blacks were not allowed to vote. Refused admittance, they sat on the steps.

The policeman struggling with Anthony is Mississippi Highway Patrolman Hughie Kohler.

As Kohler attempted to confiscate the flag, Mrs. Quinn said: “Anthony, don’t let that man take your flag.”

Kohler went berserk, yanking Anthony off his feet.

In the South during the civil rights movement, the American flag was a potent symbol of support for racial integration (and support for federal law).

Southerners who believed in racial segregation displayed Confederate flags instead. People were pulled from their cars by policemen and beaten simply for displaying an American flag on their license plates.

So the simple act of a small child carrying an American flag represented defiance of Mississippi law and custom.

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