Mississippi, Alabama marking Confederate Memorial Day
By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON — State government offices are closing Monday in Mississippi and Alabama for Confederate Memorial Day.
Georgia used to mark the holiday, but removed the Confederate reference in 2015. Now, the last Monday in April there is simply called State Holiday.
Confederate Memorial Day in Mississippi and Alabama commemorates those who died during the Civil War while fighting for Southern states that tried to secede from the U.S. The Confederate military surrendered in April 1865.
South Carolina holds a Confederate Memorial Day in May to mark the day Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died.
Mississippi said in its 1861 secession declaration that its decision to leave the United States was “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” Alabama said in its secession ordinance that it would join other states in “Southern Slaveholding Confederacy.”
Lea Campbell of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is among the critics who say it’s long past time for states to ditch Confederate Memorial Day.
“The Confederacy was a government that was established to maintain the institution of slavery to maintain the social hierarchy of white supremacy,” said Campbell, who is white and has helped organize rallies calling for Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle emblem that has been on the state flag since 1894. It is the last state flag in the nation to prominently feature the rebel emblem — a red field topped by a tilted blue cross dotted by 13 white stars.
Barry Cook, chaplain of a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter in Jasper, Alabama, wrote last week on al.com that the average Southerner fought what he called “the War Between the States” because Yankees were trying to disrupt their lives.
Cook wrote that as Confederate Memorial Day approaches, “all we ask, in the immortal words of (Confederate) President Jefferson Davis, please just leave us alone. Let us honor the valor and bravery of our Southern heroes without intimidation and insult. Our ancestors fought, died and lost everything they had for a cause that to us is worth remembering and cherishing.”
In Georgia, Republican state Rep. Tommy Benton unsuccessfully tried this year to revive the Confederate Memorial Day label for the final Monday in April. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Georgia NAACP called Benton’s effort “pathetically divisive.”