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State holiday begs the question...why are we still celebrating the Confederacy?

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville

Today is Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia. State offices and courts are closed although schools, libraries and state-licensed liquor stores remain open. Evidently, a holiday celebrating Robert E. Lee's birthday (January 19) has been recognized in Virginia since 1889. In 1904, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's name was added in order to recognize his birthday (January 21). Is is any wonder that the period when these holidays were introduced aligns with the activities of the United Daughters of the Confederacy? It was the UDC that was primarily responsible for disseminating the "Lost Cause" narrative valorizing the Confederacy and erecting many of the Confederate monuments found throughout Virginia.

When Martin Luther King Jr's birthday (January 15) became a federal holiday in 1983, Virginia combined it with Lee-Jackson Day in a move that has been called, at best, incongruous. In 2000, Governor Jim Gilmore spilt the holidays so that MLK Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January and Lee-Jackson Day is recognized the preceding Friday.

Yesterday, two interesting developments were reported in Charlottesville. First, a group of students and parents confronted the Albemarle County School Board about listing Lee-Jackson Day on the school calendar. "Printing their names on our school calendar only continues to glorify leaders who represent racism,” said Aubrey Hampton, who wants the calendar changed. Members of the school board defended their actions saying all state holidays are listed on the calendar. Bear in mind, Lee-Jackson Day is not a school holiday.

Second, Virginia House of Delegates Democratic leader, David Toscano, who represents the 57th district including Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle County, introduced legislation giving Virginia localities the authority to remove or alter Confederate statues. After the events of August 11 and 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Toscano is in a prime position to lead this charge. The Kudzu Project has contacted David's office to see how we can support this bill.

Let's celebrate these two indications of progress today as "Challenging the last vestiges of the Confederacy Day"!

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