For the third year in a row, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves quietly signed a proclamation declaring April Confederate Heritage Month, a controversial tradition that has been practiced by many of his Democratic and Republican predecessors in the southern state.
The proclamation, which was not posted on the governor’s official social media channels, nor on the Mississippi governor’s website, was instead shared on a Facebook page for the Mississippi chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Mississippi Free Press reported for the first time.
“April is the month when, in 1861, the American Civil War began between the Confederate and Union armies,” begins the statement, signed and dated by the Governor of Mississippi on April 8.
“As we honor all those who lost their lives in this war, it is important for all Americans to reflect on our nation’s past, better understand our mistakes and our successes, and fully understand that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through to tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and the opportunities available to us.
The Independent contacted the Mississippi Governor’s office for comment on the recent proclamation and Governor Reeves’ press secretary said it was signed “because [Gov Reeves] believes that we can all learn from our history”.
“For the past 30 years, five Mississippi governors — Republicans and Democrats — have signed a proclamation recognizing the statutory holiday and identifying April as Confederate Heritage Month,” Shelby Wilcher, Governor Reeves’ press secretary, said in a statement. reply by e-mail. .
It’s the third year that the executive order, which also recognizes the last Monday in April as a Confederate Memorial Day — “a holiday to honor those who served in the Confederacy” — has been signed by Gov Reeves, a tradition that he has followed every year since taking office in 2020.
“Now, therefore, I, Tate Reeves, Governor of the State of Mississippi, do hereby proclaim April 2022 Confederate Heritage Month in the State of Mississippi.”
Similar to previous iterations of this now annual proclamation, there is no mention of the enslavement of millions of African Americans, nor acknowledgment of the role they played in the Civil War.
Some groups, such as the aforementioned SCV, a group that Gov Reeves spoke at a national meeting held in 2013, promote theories that downplay the role slavery played in the build-up to civil war and strive to rewrite the history of war.
For example, members of the SCV worked with the United Confederate Veterans in the early 1900s to demand that school textbooks include the revisionist view that the the south did not fight for slaverybut rather for a “lost cause”.
This view, however, has been widely dismissed by most historians in the field. Manisha Sinha, historian at the University of Connecticut and author of The Cause of Slaves: A History of Abolitionsaid in an interview in The New York Times on this specific subject that “Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War if he had agreed to compromise on the non-extension of slavery, but this is something on which Lincoln refused to compromise”.
“When it comes to the Civil War,” she added, “we still fail to understand that the politics of compromise was a politics of appeasement that often sacrificed black freedom and rights.”
Although the proclamation was not broadcast on the governor’s official channels, it still managed to draw strong condemnation from critics who have for years called on the Southern state to scrap the commemoration of a Confederation month.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, derided the Mississippi governor’s decision to rename April “Confederate Heritage Month,” a issue the group says they have addressed for the past. three years.
“It’s a national embarrassment that a senior elected official is honoring traitors and white supremacists in the Confederacy, while dishonestly promoting ‘genocide awareness’. Governor Reeves obviously needs a large dose of this awareness,” CAIR’s national communications director Ibrahim Hooper wrote in a statement.
The “genocide awareness” to which Mr. Hooper refers stems from an earlier, arguably more public, proclamation the governor of Mississippi made last month, in which he declared April “Awareness and prevention of genocide,” noting in the caption of the tweet that shared the statement that “genocide has no place in society, and we must do everything we can to prevent it.”
Genocide, as the governor emphasized in the March 15 proclamation, is “the systematic destruction of all or part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group by destroying political and social institutions, culture, language , national sentiments, religion and economic existence, and prejudicing the personal security, liberty, health, dignity and life of individuals belonging to the group”.
Although the declaration mentions numerous worldwide atrocities committed, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Holocaust, the Holodomor and others, the proclamation nowhere acknowledges America’s own stain of slavery or the destruction of Native American cultures.
Mississippi isn’t the only state that continues to celebrate the “legacy” of the American Civil War, which officially began in April 1861.
As recently as 2019, the governor of Alabama proclaimed April will be Confederate History Month. And three states, including Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, recognize Confederate Memorial Day as a holiday.
In 2020, Governor Reeves signed a bill to retire the flag of Mississippi, which until that year was the last state in the country to display the Confederate battle emblem, widely denounced as a symbol of hatred that remains popular among white supremacists in the United States.