SURRATT: It’s time to drop Confederate holidays from the calendar

Published 4:00 am Friday, April 22, 2022

Every morning as I get ready for work, I read the online version of my hometown paper, The Baton Rouge Advocate.

This morning, as I was perusing through the stories on The Advocate’s website, an item caught my eye. It seems the Louisiana House’s Judiciary Committee approved a bill to strike Robert E. Lee’s Birthday and Confederate Memorial Day from Louisiana’s list of legal holidays. According to the article, neither holiday has been observed for years. Some states, like Mississippi, combine those holidays with other holidays.

I, for one, hope the bill passes both houses and the governor signs it. And if that happens, I hope the Mississippi Legislature follows suit. It’s time we realized the myth of the “lost cause” is something that needs to be locked away in a cabinet and forgotten because the revisionist history of the Civil War doesn’t jibe with the facts.

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According to the website “Mississippi History Now,” which is provided by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:

“Issues such as state’s rights and high tariffs are frequently cited as causes of the war, but Mississippi’s defense of the institution of slavery was the ultimate reason the state seceded from the Union. Indeed, a Declaration from its January 1861 state convention on whether to secede from the Union stated, ‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.’”

We in the South sentimentally try to cling too long to the past sometimes for the wrong reasons. I have on many occasions cited that my great-great-grandfather was killed at the Battle of Shiloh as part of my “pedigree” when I write columns such as this. Do I mourn his death? In some ways, yes. And while I would like to feel proud that he stood for something, I can’t because I know what that cause was.

Removing Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday will not change history; the same as removing statues of Confederate generals will not change history. The exception to that practice is in our national parks, where the monuments and memorials help tell the story of a conflict where men fought and died for what they believed in and how that war changed the course of the U.S. and led us to where we are now.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors was the most recent local body to address such issues, with the board opting to celebrate “Warren County Employee Day” this year in addition to Confederate Memorial Day. Next year, they are set to swap Confederate Memorial Day for Good Friday, a holy day on which county employees have traditionally worked.

It’s time we look at the Civil War from the standpoint of what it was — a war with its beginnings in the late 1850s with threats by Southern states to leave the union so they could cling to a particular institution and then escalated the issue by firing on Fort Sumter.

It’s time we as a people accept the history of a conflict for what it was and drop the sentimental holidays and myths very few observe. That’s why it makes sense to drop Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as holidays.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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