Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has been receiving significant attention this week for the fact that he has issued recognized April 2010 as Confederate History Month, but didn’t include any mention of slavery in his proclamation. He explained that he didn’t include a reference because slavery wasn’t one of the “most significant” aspects of the conflict between the states.
However, McDonnell isn’t the only Southern governor to honor the Confederacy while omitting any mention of slavery — he joins Georgia and Mississippi.
The Confederate History and Heritage Month proclamations are being spearheaded by a group called the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. Other projects around the country include trying to erect a monument remembering South Carolina’s secession. Today, Calvin E. Johnson, Jr., who chairs the Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, sent around a press release touting the group’s success:
In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly approved Senate Bill No. 27, signed by Governor Sonny Perdue, officially designating April permanently as Confederate History and Heritage Month.
In 1999, Texas Senate Resolution No. 526 passed designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month.
Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue, Mississippi’s Governor Haley Barbour and Virginia’s Governor Robert F. McDonnell have all signed a proclamation designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month for 2010.
Texas’ resolution does mention slavery. Perdue’s proclamation does not, nor does the Georgia Senate bill (with the exception of a reference to “Georgia’s best new history museum chronicles the civil rights struggle of Georgia’s oldest African American community from slavery to the present”). Barbour’s 2009 proclamation also has no slavery mention, and we received no response from Barbour’s office to our request for a copy of the 2010 proclamation. Perdue’s office also didn’t respond to our request for an official copy of their 2010 proclamation.
Today, ThinkProgress spoke to Johnson, who said that he supported McDonnell’s decision to leave slavery out of the proclamation:
JOHNSON: No, I don’t think so [that he should have mentioned slavery], because really, there was slavery on both sides. That was the issue — some of the Union commanders owned slaves. So that wasn’t really the issue of the war. The issue of the war was states’ rights, a lot of which you’re hearing today. … I wouldn’t say it didn’t play any role, but remember that slavery was recognized by the U.S. Constitution. It was protected. You still had slavery even in the North back then — in Washington, DC. […]
TP: So Virginia’s proclamation didn’t need to apologize for slavery, you don’t think?
JOHNSON: I’m not saying it was right, but then again, both sides — No, I don’t think it should be in there. It was part, but like I said, it was on both sides — North and South. The reason it was more in the South, of course, was because the South was agricultural. But no, I don’t think it should have been in there, personally.
The Washington Post’s Virginia Politics Blog reports, “Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a similar proclamation last month. It asks that state residents ‘honor our past and from it draw the courage, strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves and go forward into the future together as Alabamians and Americans.’ It also specifically condemns slavery, calling it ‘one of the causes of the war.'”