By the 1940s, however, the flag could be seen at University of Mississippi football games and other popular events, ushering in what historian John Coski has called a “flag fad.” That fad eventually extended to the far reaches of the nation, and the flag can now be seen on every kind of trinket and tchotchke imaginable.
However, the flag’s most lasting legacy — and the source of much of the controversy today — can be traced to its use as a symbol of “Massive Resistance” by the Dixiecrats beginning in 1948 and continuing through the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. During that period, the flag became the standard for those committed to defending classrooms, bus depots, and other public spaces (now battlefields themselves) from black encroachment.
In fact, the flag’s use throughout the 20th century covered a time span significantly longer than its presence on Civil War battlefields. Its placement atop southern statehouses like South Carolina ultimately reinforced the flag’s connection to segregation and racism.