Story at a glance
- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a proclamation on April 3 designating the month as Confederate Heritage Month.
- The last Monday of April is Confederate Memorial Day in Mississippi, which became a part of the Confederacy after seceding from the United States during the Civil War.
- April marks the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed two pieces of paper at the beginning of April: one issuing a statewide stay at home order as the number of COVID-19 cases topped 1,000; and another, a proclamation designating the month as Confederate Heritage Month.
The second went largely unreported until two days later, when the Jackson Free Press picked it up. It wasn't unprecedented for a state with the Confederate battle flag in its state flag and already celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April. The state has made similar proclamations before, including under its last governor, Phil Bryant, in 2016. The second southern state to secede from the United States in 1861, Mississippi fought under the Confederate flag in the American Civil War, which officially began in April of that year.
"As we honor all who lost their lives in this war, it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation's past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which life before us," reads the proclamation Gov. Reeves signed on April 3.
The Mississippi branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), which Reeves was a member of and whose members have claimed the Civil War was not fought over slavery, shared the order on their Facebook page, saying, "God bless the Confederate Soldier. He shall never be forgotten. Deo Vindice!" Deo Vindice, which means "with god as our defender/protector," was the national motto of the Confederate States.
Many historians reject the claim by SCV and others that the Civil War had little to nothing to do with the issue of slavery.
"In 1861, they were very clear on what the causes of the war were. The reason there was no compromise possible was that people in the country could not agree over the wisdom of the continued and expanding enslavement of millions of African Americans," Stephanie McCurry, a history professor at Columbia University, has told the Washington Post.
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The issue of slavery has been well recorded as a sticking point in the lead-up to the Civil War. In fact, a proposed amendment to the Constitution would have allowed slavery to continue without federal interference in the states where it already existed, but slaveholding states refused the compromise because it would prohibit the establishment of slavery in new territories.
“Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War if he had agreed to compromise on the nonextension of slavery, but that was one thing Lincoln refused to compromise on, and rightly so,” Manisha Sinha, a historian at the University of Connecticut, told the New York Times.
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