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Old 04-08-2010, 11:48 AM   #1
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Confederate History Month

Just leave slavery out of it

washingtonpost.com

McDonnell's Confederate History Month proclamation irks civil rights leaders

By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 7, 2010; A01

RICHMOND -- Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, reviving a controversy that had been dormant for eight years, has declared that April will be Confederate History Month in Virginia, a move that angered civil rights leaders Tuesday but that political observers said would strengthen his position with his conservative base.

The two previous Democratic governors had refused to issue the mostly symbolic proclamation honoring the soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. McDonnell (R) revived a practice started by Republican governor George Allen in 1997. McDonnell left out anti-slavery language that Allen's successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), had included in his proclamation.

McDonnell said Tuesday that the move was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."

The proclamation was condemned by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. Former governor L. Douglas Wilder called it "mind-boggling to say the least" that McDonnell did not reference slavery or Virginia's struggle with civil rights in his proclamation. Though a Democrat, Wilder has been supportive of McDonnell and boosted his election efforts when he declined to endorse the Republican's opponent, R. Creigh Deeds.

"Confederate history is full of many things that unfortunately are not put forth in a proclamation of this kind nor are they things that anyone wants to celebrate," he said. "It's one thing to sound a cause of rallying a base. But it's quite another to distort history."

The seven-paragraph declaration calls for Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."

McDonnell had quietly made the proclamation Friday by placing it on his Web site, but it did not attract attention in the state capital until Tuesday. April also honors child abuse prevention, organ donations, financial literacy and crime victims.

After a fall campaign spent focusing almost exclusively on jobs and the economy, McDonnell had been seen in recent weeks as largely ceding conservative ground to the state's activist attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II. The proclamation could change that view among Republicans who believe appropriate respect for the state's Confederate past has been erased by an over-allegiance to political correctness, observers said.

"It helps him with his base," said Mark Rozell, a political scientist at George Mason University. "These are people who support state's rights and oppose federal intrusion."

Said Patrick M. McSweeney, a former state GOP chairman: "I applaud McDonnell for doing it. I think it takes a certain amount of courage."

The Virginia NAACP and the state's Legislative Black Caucus called the proclamation an insult to a large segment of the state's population, particularly because it never acknowledges slavery.

"Governor McDonnell's proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed," said Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic."

King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, said his group will hold an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss a series of problems it has had with McDonnell since he was sworn into office in January.

Virginia has had a long, complicated history on racial relations -- long before Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Many of its most prominent early residents, including future presidents, owned slaves, and the state openly fought desegregation, even closing schools instead of integrating them. But in 1989, the state made Wilder the first African American governor in the nation since Reconstruction.

McDonnell said Tuesday that people's thinking about civil rights and the role of the Confederacy in Virginia history have advanced to the point where "people can talk about and discuss and . . . begin to understand the history a little better."

"I felt just as I've issued dozens and dozens of other commemorations, that it was something that was worthy of doing so people can at least study and understand that period of Virginia history and how it impacts us today," he said.

The state's new governor campaigned relentlessly on improving the economy and creating jobs and received the strong backing of the business community. But the attention that Virginia will receive from the proclamation might take away from that focus.

Rozell said the proclamation is a "distraction" from McDonnell's desire to attract companies to Virginia. Businesses might begin to perceive McDonnell's latest decision -- combined with Cuccinelli's decision to sue the federal government over health-care reform legislation and his advice to state colleges and universities that they remove sexual-orientation language from their anti-discrimination policies -- as a pattern of behavior not conducive to relocating in the state.

Allen caused a national uproar when he signed a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It called the Civil War "a four-year struggle for [Southern] independence and sovereign rights" and made no mention of slavery.

Gilmore modified the decree in 1998 by adding a condemnation of slavery, but it failed to satisfy either defenders of Confederate heritage or civil rights leaders. He later changed the proclamation by dropping references to Confederate History Month and instead designated April as "Virginia's Month for Remembrance of the Sacrifices and Honor of All Virginians Who Served in the Civil War."

But in 2002, Mark Warner, Gilmore's successor, broke with their actions, calling such proclamations a "lightning rod" that did not help bridge divisions between whites and blacks in Virginia. Four years later, Timothy M. Kaine was asked but did not issue a proclamation.

This year's proclamation was requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A representative of the group said it has known since it interviewed McDonnell when he was running for attorney general in 2005 that he was likely to respond differently than Warner or Kaine.

"We've known for quite some time we had a good opportunity should he ascend the governorship," said Brandon Dorsey of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), who has spoken from the floor of the General Assembly about honoring Virginia's Confederate past with appropriate acknowledgments to its difficult racial past, said he believed Warner and Kaine "avoided" the issue by failing to issue similar documents.

"It would be totally inappropriate to do one that would just poke a stick to stir up old wounds. But it is appropriate to recognize the historical significance of Virginia in that era," he said. "I think it's appropriate as long as it's not fiery."

McDonnell's proclamation comes just before the April 17, 1861, anniversary of the day Virginia seceded from the union.
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:14 PM   #2
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The thing I don't get is why the confederacy has to have any "history month" at all. They seceded from the United States, they didn't want to be a part of the country any more and fought against the country.

How is the confederacy different from other groups the United States has had a war with? People today are their descendants. Fine. But there are people today who are also descendants of British loyalists during the American Revolution. We don't have a "British colonial loyalist history month".
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Old 04-08-2010, 12:59 PM   #3
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VA is now a gray state, apparently.

Southern Gray.
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Old 04-08-2010, 02:22 PM   #4
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So next year Virginia can change it's tourism campaign slogan from Virginia is for Lovers to Virginia is for Losers.
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Old 04-08-2010, 04:47 PM   #5
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You wanted something, you were in the wrong, and you lost...

What the hell is there to celebrate?

And some of you wonder why the rest of the country looks at you as being backwards.
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Old 04-08-2010, 05:21 PM   #6
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It was not about slavery, very few Southerners owned slaves.

It was about States Rights,
similar to the Founding Fathers fight about not wanting to be bow down to the King of England.

^ Those are the arguments I have heard for remembering and honoring the Confederacy.
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Old 04-08-2010, 05:25 PM   #7
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I think it's downright embarrassing and sad that appealing to a conservative base involves leaving slavery out of your history

thinkprogress.org

McDonnell apologizes, promises to acknowledge slavery in Confederacy proclamation.

This afternoon, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) apologized for omitting slavery from his proclamation on Confederate History Month. Yesterday, he defended his original decision, saying that he focused on the “aspects” of the Civil War that were “most significant for Virginia.” Since that time, he has faced criticism from progressives, civil rights groups, conservatives, and even people and organizations that originally supported his campaign. From his apology statement:

The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed. The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation. In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly approved a formal statement of “profound regret” for the Commonwealth’s history of slavery, which was the right thing to do.

McDonnell has also promised to add language denouncing slavery to his proclamation:

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.

As ThinkProgress reported earlier today, former Republican governor George Allen, who started the practice of Confederate History Month proclamations for Virginia, also had to apologize for leaving out a reference to slavery in 1997.
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Old 04-08-2010, 06:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by MrsSpringsteen View Post
"It helps him with his base," said Mark Rozell,
Great base he's got! Heckuva crowd.
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Old 04-08-2010, 06:28 PM   #9
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^ Those are the arguments I have heard for remembering and honoring the Confederacy.
Yeah Revisionist History is appealing to some.
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Old 04-16-2010, 10:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deep View Post
It was not about slavery, very few Southerners owned slaves.

It was about States Rights,
similar to the Founding Fathers fight about not wanting to be bow down to the King of England.

^ Those are the arguments I have heard for remembering and honoring the Confederacy.
Yeah, and those arguments are a lot of crap. Very few southerners owned slaves, but that was because most southerners couldn't afford them, not because they opposed slavery. States Rights was a big issue, but the cornerstone of the States Rights debate was slavery.

Honoring the Confederacy is akin to. . .

wait for it. . .

honoring Nazi Germany.

Sorry. [said in a Simon Cowell-British-accent after he's given a scathing judgement on American Idol].
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:13 PM   #11
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Yeah, and those arguments are a lot of crap. Very few southerners owned slaves, but that was because most southerners couldn't afford them, not because they opposed slavery. States Rights was a big issue, but the cornerstone of the States Rights debate was slavery.

Honoring the Confederacy is akin to. . .

wait for it. . .

honoring Nazi Germany.

Sorry. [said in a Simon Cowell-British-accent after he's given a scathing judgement on American Idol].
According to most writing at the time, slavery was NOT the main issue of the Civil War - it eventually morphed into the most important issue with the Emancipation Proclamation following a Union "victory" at Antietam. If you doubt this, please dig into some recent Civil War books like Doris Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”. In fact, the author notes the great Abraham Lincoln used to open meetings by telling “darkie” jokes. She makes the great point that we can’t look at the Civil War period solely through twenty-first century eyes.

Most Northerners didn’t fight to free slaves but to “save the Union.” And most Southerners didn’t fight to keep slaves for rich aristocrats but to protect their land from a perceived invasion.

Let’s face it, if you were a healthy white male born in Georgia in 1845 – you would have fought to keep Sherman from burning down your homes and cities in 1865.
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:22 PM   #12
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It is true, neither side had that great of motivations in the Civil War. Black people still had difficulty up north before and after slavery. Basically it was the lesser of two evils.

But regardless, to leave slavery out at all still doesn't make sense, because it WAS part of the history of the Civil War. Really, to honor anything in any war other than perhaps the valiant efforts of soldiers makes no sense. Wars aren't honorable situations.

I just want to know how they can explain their support for the Confederacy and still cling to that much beloved patriotism staple. The Confederates were the ones who actually listened to the "My country, love it or leave it!" advice...and they chose to leave. Gotta love the contradictions, really.

Angela
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:32 PM   #13
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But regardless, to leave slavery out at all still doesn't make sense, because it WAS part of the history of the Civil War.
I just want to know how they can

Angela
This is true - slavery was certainly a major factor and to leave it out of the converstation is ludicrous.

Also, I think we must understand, that for four years the Confederacy truly saw itself as another country. It had a president, congress, money....etc. The average Confederate soldier fought bravely to save his country from invasion - I see nothing wrong with honoring those men.

Even to this day - General Robert. E. Lee is considered the best military leader in our history and is still highly regarded by both sides. Also, I think it was General Longstreet (Lee's second in command) that said "we should have freed the slaves THEN fired on Fort Sumter." An interesting argument for what truly motivated the Confederate soldier.
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:43 PM   #14
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Another interesting point to consider is that the war was very unpopular in the North and if it wasn't for some timely Union victories in 1864, just before the election, Lincoln would not have been reelected and the Confederacy would have remained (McClellan ran on a peace platform).

Even until the day after the votes were in, Lincoln doubted he would be given a second term.
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Old 04-17-2010, 02:50 AM   #15
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Yeah Revisionist History is appealing to some.
Historical Fact: Lincoln did not send the US Army into the South to free to slaves, but to stop the rebellion.

Historical Fact: Virginia did not leave the Union until the US Army decided to invade states that legally voted to leave the Union.

Historical Fact: Men like Robert. E. Lee did not claim to fight to protect slavery, but to defend his home and out of refusal to lead forces that would eventually invade his neighbors (remember, there has always been a mistrust of the armed forces on our own soil)

Historical Fact: The overwhelming majority of the North that actually supported and/or fought in the war - wanted to preserve the Union (the rest wanted peace and to leave the South alone...see Copperheads)

Historical Fact: Lincoln did not promise to end slavery if elected, only to stop the expansion of slavery into new territory. If the Southern states had not left the Union – there wouldn’t have been a Civil War and slavery would have (probably) been replaced by mechanization. Also, Lincoln wanted to send the freed slaves back to Africa.

Historical Fact: The majority on both sides could care less about blacks and their rights.

SOURCES: How about the hundreds of books written on the Civil War that apparently few people want to read.

This whole notion of Lincoln sending in the Army to free the slaves that I'm hearing on TV in response to this topic is the "revisionist" history. Most people in the North still considered blacks second rate citizens (if that). The actual war, the reason Washington sent armies south and battles fought, was the preservation of the Union - that no state had the right to leave the Union. The Southern states believed that since they voted themselves into the Union, they could vote themselves out of the Union. They believed that had legally formed a new country and were now being invaded by a foreign nation.

The Civil War is America's Iliad - there were heroes and tragic figures on both sides. The central characters, the men who actually fought, were swept into the war based on place of birth (with very few exceptions) and not on the idea to end slavery. Men on both sides fought bravely and led maneuvers that were both brilliant (Jackson’s flank move at Chancellorsville) and horrific (Picket’s Charge at Gettysburg) . Hundreds of thousands of men died in what was the bloodiest war on earth to that point. The percentage of the male population that fought and died doesn’t even compare to modern numbers. To honor men on both sides is the right and honorable thing to do.
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