A look at the history of the Confederate flag

More states are considering removing the Confederate flag from their state capitols. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered the flags to be taken down by executive order. Meanwhile, two Republican senators from Mississippi also voiced support for removing the Confederate emblem from their state flag.

Critics say it promotes white supremacy and is a symbol of pro-slavery. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called it a symbol of treason. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other supporters say it does not symbolize hate.

The banner at the center of this debate is not the Confederate 'stars and bars'. It did not fly over Confederate state houses during the American Civil War and never officially represented the Confederacy as a self-proclaimed nation. The Confederacy approved three other flags to represent it.

But the first official Confederate flag resembled the American flag in battle. To avoid confusion, the Army of Northern Virginia used a square battle flag, which was later extended into a rectangle, the current banner drawing controversy today, and was adopted as a symbol of southern pride.

Marion Lambert, who has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for years, flies a Confederate flag on his private property near the junction of I-4 and I-75 to honor Confederate soldiers. It is the largest Confederate flag in the world.

He and others who embrace this flag, say it does not represent slavery, because they do not embrace what many Americans were taught in school. "If the south had won the war, the blacks would have been a lot better off," said Lambert. "If it wasn't for the north, slavery would have been gone a lot sooner."

Lambert and many other rebel flag supporters say the north was complicit in slavery, and though southern states cited the defense of slavery as a driving cause in declarations of secession, supporters say it did not cause the war, so they do not relate the emblem to slavery.

"It wasn't the cause of the war," said Lambert. "It's what precipitated the war."

But this controversy over the Confederate flag goes beyond a disagreement over history, because white supremacists revived this flag in the 1950s and 60's, and used it as a banner to protest integration.

"There are hate groups that have taken this battle flag as an emblem of their hatred," said Republican South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis.

So, activists have lobbied states across the south to take down this flag for years. In Florida, Former Governor Jeb Bush removed a Confederate emblem from state property 14 years ago. And now, the massacre by a self-proclaimed white supremacist in Charleston is driving stores and states to take the flag down across the nation.

RELATED: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants Confederate flag on I-4 moved