Joining Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, state Gov. Phil Bryant made headlines across America by issuing a proclamation declaring April to be Confederate Heritage Month.
The last Monday of the month traditionally observed as Confederate Memorial Day, was established in 1866 to honor those killed while fighting on the side of the Confederacy. Only former confederates states celebrated the day, but Memorial Day, established by Gen. John Logan in 1868, was created to honor the Union dead. The holiday quickly became a day to honor the dead of both sides, but the Southern states continued to observe Confederate Memorial Day.
In his proclamation, Gov. Bryant named April as the most important month for confederate heritage due to the holiday and to the fact that the Confederates “began and ended their four year struggle” in the month.
While some see this as a strike back against recent events in which universities across the state have taken down the flag due to the imagery contained in it, Gov. Bryant issued an almost identical proclamation in 2012, as reported in the Clarion-Ledger. However, since the political climate of today is quite different than four years ago, this proclamation is making waves everywhere.
“It is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday, and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage,” both proclamations read, despite the four-year gap between the two.
Clay Chandler, the governor’s spokesperson, told to CNN, “Governor Bryant believes Mississippi’s history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be.”
Proclamations can be issued for special requests. Chandler told the Jackson Free Press that this proclamation in particular was requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans group. Initially, the document was posted only on the SCV website, not the governor’s website, though it has since been uploaded.
Chandler said that Gov. Bryant’s predecessors issued similar proclamations, and ThinkProgress.org, Boston.com, and TalkingPointsMemo.com report that former Gov. Haley Barbour did issue a Confederate History and Heritage Month proclamation in 2010. The text once again reads exactly as Bryant’s.
Every issued Mississippi proclamation failed to mention slavery,a factor significant in its contribution to the war. Virginia’s proclamation, also issued in 2010, also omits slavery. However, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who issued the original proclamation, released an updated version.
“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.”
Barbour defended McDonnell’s original proclamation,“It’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter for diddly,” he said to CNN.
This comes as just one in a long list of events in the multifaceted battle for the viewpoint on confederate history. Ole Miss and USM have taken down the state flag recently, the state of Alabama removed the confederate flag from the statehouse and Vicksburg Civil War monument briefly halted the sale of confederate flags and flag memorabilia in 2015 following the Charleston shooting.
Upon Gov. Bryant’s release of the proclamation, Grenada attorney Carlos Moore filed a lawsuit against the governor saying that flying the flag violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Moore cites the violence in South Carolina as well as an attack in Tupelo as his reason to fear that the situation will escalate in Mississippi.
As of February, Mississippi stands as the last state to publicly fly a flag featuring the confederate symbol.