How a Confederate flag tore a neighborhood apart, before it came together

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — Even though one neighborhood in Summerville, South Carolina, is predominately black, no one really noticed when Annie Caddell moved in seven years ago. At least, as CBS News reported a few months ago, no one really noticed at first.

"When she came here she seemed to be very nice," said Juanita Edwards, Annie's neighbor. "A little while later she started putting up Confederate flags."

And so began a very public fight. When the neighbors protested in front of her house, Annie invited counter-protesters to stand in her yard. When the neighbors put up walls on both sides of her property to block the view, Annie put up a taller flag pole.

"Once you get my hackles raised I don't back down," Annie said.

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Annie Caddell

CBS News

Eventually the war settled into a stalemate, of sorts. There were no more marches, no bigger walls, no taller flag poles -- just a quite bitterness on both sides, until just recently, when Annie had a change of heart, quite literally.

"When you have a heart attack and you're being told you're not going to live very long, you're facing your mortality. I needed to clean up the messes that I made by being so stubborn," Annie said.

She started with one of her fiercest critics: director of the local community resource center, Louis Smith.

"She said, 'I have decided to take down the flag.' And I was like, huh," Louis said.

Not long after, she presented him with the flag. Annie said that before her health scare, she only saw the Confederate flag through her eyes -- as a way to honor relatives who fought for the South. But she said that after, that argument seemed so petty.

"Sometimes it takes a serious action to happen to you before you see your actions on others," Annie said.

Since this story first aired, things have only gotten better. Last month, Annie's neighbors returned the favor by taking down the walls. It was an intensely cathartic moment.

"I feel like they welcomed me with open arms today. I have never felt so much love and care," Annie said.

In America, some of us love to build walls. But if one block of this great country shows us anything, it's that we love tearing them down even more.


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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.