Honoring Those Who Died for Ole’ Dixie

Apr 27, 2007 12:59pm

This week marks the beginning of a series of state holidays celebrating those who fought and died for the Confederacy during the country’s bloody Civil War, but not everyone is celebrating. "We’re opposed to that which touches upon celebration of a heritage which in its root had slavery and oppression of a whole group of people and treason in the United States," says Dr. Francys Johnson, the regional director of the southeast region of the NAACP.  He says the issue is not whether to honor the dead, but whether to honor the cause for which the soldiers died. At least 10 states including Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas, observe some version of a Confederate Memorial holiday. In Georgia, government offices and some businesses close down the last Monday in April to observe its Confederate Memorial Day. In Florida, there’s a fight brewing in Hillsborough County to expand the largely ceremonial holiday to a Southern Heritage Month.  "I do not want to diminish or ignore our history," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higgenbotham, "but to memorialize it is just painful to too many people." Higgenbotham was one of four county commissioners who refused to sign the proclamation. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. But John Hurley, the president of the Confederate Memorial Association, a nonprofit organization that ran a Washington, D.C. history museum until 1997, says there is nothing racist about the holiday. "We are in favor of memorials that provide historical perspective," says Hurley. "But we are not in favor of white supremacy." History professor Gaines Foster of Louisiana State University says that it’s impossible to honor those who fought for the Confederacy without acknowledging what the Civil War was ultimately about. "You can never completely distance any celebration of the Confederacy from seccession and slavery," says Foster. Foster says, however, that the holiday remains ceremonial in most states and isn’t as divisive as the debate over state governments’ use of the confederate flag. "The holiday has always been less political than the use of the confederate flag," says Foster.  "It’s clearly about honoring the past and the dead."

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