Turns out roadside stands and bait shops in Saline County aren’t the only places peddling “Lost Cause” iconography. A reader alerted us to a photo posted on Facebook of the gift shop shelves at Historic Washington State Park in Southwest Arkansas, where you could — until yesterday — pick up a coozie, a shot glass or a pack of playing cards with the Confederate flag emblazoned on it.
Historic Washington State Park (Hempstead County) is in Washington, Ark., which served as the Confederate capital of Arkansas between 1863 and 1865. We reached out to the state park about the items and were directed to Melissa Whitfield, the communications officer for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, who shared with us the following statement:
Items that depict the Confederate flag have been removed from the gift shop at Historic Washington State Park. We apologize that these items were still being sold at the park. Part of the park’s mission is to interpret the years that the town was the Confederate capital of Arkansas during the Civil War, but that can be done without offering for sale any items with a symbol that has become hurtful and divisive. Our interpretation of that time must be done in a respectful manner.
Arkansas State Parks does have a policy about resale items in state park gift shops. It refers to inappropriate resale items that convey “any message, visual or verbal, that is violent, sexual, or otherwise discriminates on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age or disability.” The policy will be updated and reviewed with staff to make sure it is understood.
Whitfield reported that the items were removed yesterday, and that purchasing decisions at Arkansas state parks are managed by the individual state parks. “The purchasing process has been a bit de-centralized,” Whitfield said, “and we will be working on that.”