Posts Tagged ‘Civil War


Confederate History Month

As instituted by my great state’s very own governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, the month of April has officially been named “Confederate History Month” in Virginia. If you reside in the state, I’m guessing that this is practically old news to you by now, seeing as the combination of local coverage and online social network chatter over the past three days has generated a national buzz that went so far as to land the story in top slots on national news broadcasts. In my classes on campus, discussion has ranged from general reactions to generous ranting about whether or not this declaration will drive a wedge between black and whites in the state. Some have even said that this development has gone so far as to set the nation back 200 years.

What they may not know, however, is that the idea of claiming a Confederate History Month was not pioneered by a Virginian law-maker. Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and even Virginia (before the year 1994) have recognized the occasion for years.

There is no question of Virginia’s cemented history within the Confederacy– as Richmond, the current state capital, was also the capital of the Confederate States from 1861-1865. In my opinion, Virginia is still a southern state, though I can think of some friends who would disagree, refusing to accept it as the “real” South. But who knows what that means. Either way, Virginia’s previous two governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, chose, during their administrations, not to recognize Confederate History Month when April rolled around. And now it’s back– and as I said, not without its dissenters. Beyond the expected backlash from a state containing a population who’s 20% of African Americans would more than likely have been enslaved under the Confederate ideology of the time, Governor McDonnell initially neglected to mention this glaring truth in his official Confederate History Month decree.

A day after the first proclamation, so many civil rights watchdogs and individuals decried McDonnell’s statement that he publicly apologized and added the following paragraph to the original document (which you can read here):

“WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history; and…”

So. What’s my take on it all? Simply (or not so simply) this:

The Confederate States of America and its historical culture are inextricably bound to the nationally-recognized evil that was slavery. These same states advocated a rebellion against the unified establishment of America and its federal government. The ideology which drove certain Southern States to secede, however, was just as deeply rooted as the other facets of “Dixie” culture which were inarguably less destructive. In the context of America’s history, southern culture is celebrated and commemorate even beyond the borders of such southern states. And as it should be, the sacrifice of blood that so many Confederates put forth towards little more than an idea– but as largely important as livelihood or lifestyle– should be recognized by the America that exists today as a result. However, it should not be overlooked that in retrospect, the then-ideology of the Confederate States currently stands in blatant defiance of the moral standards we have since developed as as country, or even the fundamental cornerstone of freedom upon which the country was originally founded.

That being said, if one state wishes to recognize Confederate History Month, then the entire nation must commit to its commemoration. And the month should not be called Confederate History Month– but Civil War History Month– or something along those lines which implies that the Confederacy was not established as an entity excused of the bitter and bloody consequence of its treason. However, its existence was not a part our history that should be ignored or overlooked, as the citizens of the Confederacy played just as important a role in the rich history of the U.S. as the North.

As much as a I hate to say it, the other condition which must exist before the U.S. can begin to extract anything from the Civil War Era for commemoration is one of political correctness. It cannot be ignored that the reasonable black or white feels either one way or another about the country’s past in slavery. And these feelings currently range from indifference to bitterness and anger. The Civil War and its surrounding climate left a bloody stain on the American timeline. Such a stain may never truly lift from this fabric, but neither dressing it up as a decorative mark nor cutting it from the surrounding cloth will make for a very appealing outfit.



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