Confederate flag battle sparks debate over Ala. high school mascot

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. -- In New Orleans, Gen. Robert E. Lee still faces north and stands defiant, 150 years after the South surrendered. This statue is one of four Confederate monuments mayor Mitch Landrieu wants removed.

"These ideals never belonged in a city as great as New Orleans and whose lifeblood flows from our richness and diversity," said Landrieu.

In Vestavia Hills, Ala., the "Rebel Man" is the high school mascot. Its logo was inspired by an Old South plantation owner.

"Rebel Man" is at the center of a debate over Confederate symbols at an Alabama high school. CBS News

All of it bothers resident Kira Fountaineau. She was asked what she sees.

"I see the Confederacy," she said. "I see images of slavery. I see Jim Crow."

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This affluent suburb of Birmingham is mostly white and pro-Rebel Man.

State Sen. Jabbo Waggoner last night urged the school board to keep it. "If we change the mascot," he said. "What's next? Where do we go from here?"

Congress this week banned the display of Confederate flags at cemeteries run by the National Park Service.

Patience Smith, 20, agrees but believes Vestavia Hills should keep the Rebel Man. She was one of four black students to dress as the mascot.

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But when she was the Rebel Man, did she feel lesser than?

"When I put on the suit, I felt as equal as when I was the homecoming queen," she said. "I have a lot of black friends and never once were they like, girl why do you have on that Rebel Man costume."

Here in Vestavia Hills, passion runs high on both sides. The local school board promises a decision on the Rebel Man's future by the end of the month.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.