Over 150 years ago, the state of Alabama took up arms against the United States in order to defend the state’s practice of enslaving black people and forcing them to work to enrich white property owners. Today, the state celebrates its four years of treason in defense of slavery with a statewide holiday.
Under Alabama law, the fourth Monday in April is “Confederate Memorial Day” — and this is actually one of two Confederate-themed holidays celebrated by the state. State law also recognizes the first Monday in January as a celebration of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. State offices, courts, and licensing offices are all closed on Monday because of the state holiday.
Nor is Alabama alone in using today to celebrate the Confederacy. Mississippi also celebrates Confederate Memorial Day, although Mississippi state offices will only close “at the discretion of the executive head of the department or agency.” Until recently, Georgia celebrated the same holiday — in 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) renamed Confederate Memorial Day with the generic term “state holiday.”
In total, eight states — Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas — still celebrate some sort of Confederate holiday, although the nature of the celebration (and whether state workers get the day off) varies from state to state. Texas’ holiday, which the state celebrated on January 19th, is called “Confederate Heroes Day.” Meanwhile, Virginia has long used its Confederate holiday as a counterbalance to the federal holiday honoring a fallen civil rights leader.
Shortly after federal legislation created a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Virginia combined that holiday with another celebration honoring Confederate Generals Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. This “Lee-Jackson-King Day” existed until 2000, when it was split into two holidays.
Now, Virginia honors the man who died advancing the cause of racial justice on a Monday and the two men who fought to maintain slavery on the proceeding Friday.