Long term Virginia resident and Professor at Virginia Tech Nikki Giovanni lays it out –
This “Proclamation” may well cost McDonnel any goodwill he had with black voters in the state. He was the first Republican politician to make inroads into getting black voters to support him – in no small part that he portrayed himself as a different style of Republican politician from courthouse steps racists like George “Macacca” Allen and Jim Gillmore.
I’m going to repeat and expand a bit on what I said earlier in a response to a comment –
In Virginia we celebrate Lee-Jackson day, where State Offices are closed. There are numerous roads, towns, and highways named after Robert E. Lee, or “Stonewall” Jackson. One of the largest military bases in the state is named after a confederate General – A.P. Hill. Others include Ft. Pickett and Ft. Lee. Monument Avenue in Richmond features statues and memorials to confederate leaders – there is even a Jewish confederate Monument… There are even confederate Monuments where there is scant evidence anyone felt important enough to shoot at each other over…
There are dozens of Battlefields, and in virtually every one of the older towns – a memorial to the confederate dead in the town square.
On the white side of my family, one of my great-great uncles was a Confederate Colonel in the Army of Virginia. He was a slave holder, and plantation owner. I don’t celebrate his choice – nor his “service”. In fact, I’m glad he’s dead. He was fortunate to live long enough to die of natural causes. His brother, my great great grandfather did not fight for the confederacy, even though he was certainly of age. He would later commit the Cardinal Sin of recognizing his black “common law” wife and their children, for which he would vilified as a pariah, and denied burial upon his death in the graveyard of the Church which his grandfather had founded.
On the other side of the family, my Great-Great Grandfather was a freedman – who shot every confederate he could, and “buried” them out back in a limestone cave as a proxy for being able to serve in the Union Army. We have physical evidence of this. His Mother, Grandmother, and his siblings were the objects of at least 6 Court cases, and several kidnapping attempts over a 60 year period by white southern slaveholders attempting to re-enslave them, and their children. He purchased his wife out of slavery. Because his wife had been a slave, his children were required by law to be “apprenticed” to a white slaveholder, as free labor until they reached the age of majority – despite his owning land of his own.
In Richmond there are only 2 (two) Memorials put up by the City to famous black citizens, Arthur Ashe put up in 1992, and William “Bojangles” Robinson – neither of which were erected until well after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and after Virginia’s “massive resistance” to Civil Rights for black Americans.
There are NO Monuments to German, Japanese, or Italian Americans who decided to go back and fight for Hitler, Hirohito, or Mussolini. And yeah – some did…
So why exactly should we be celebrating Treason? Especially that committed for a cause every bit as despicable as Hitler’s genocide?
After a barrage of nationwide criticism for excluding slavery from his Confederate History Month proclamation, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Wednesday conceded that it was “a major omission” and amended the document to acknowledge the state’s complicated past.
A day earlier, McDonnell said he left out any reference to slavery in the original seven-paragraph proclamation because he wanted to include issues he thought were most “significant” to Virginia. He also said the document was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
However, Wednesday afternoon the governor issued a mea culpa for the document’s exclusion of slavery. “The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.”
McDonnell also called the nation’s first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder (D) of Virginia, and the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), to apologize after they said they were offended by the document. McDonnell told them that he would alter the proclamation to include slavery and acknowledge that it was the cause of the Civil War.
The original declaration called on Virginians to “understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War.” McDonnell added language to the document that said slavery “was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders.”
But his decision to declare April Confederate History Month continued to cause a firestorm Wednesday, with national media descending on Richmond and Democrats and African Americans accusing the new governor of ignoring the state’s role in slavery.
Sheila Johnson, one of McDonnell’s most prominent black supporters and the wealthy co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, condemned the proclamation, calling it “insensitive” to Virginia’s complicated and painful history.
“If Virginians are to celebrate their ‘shared history,’ as this proclamation suggests, then the whole truth of this history must be recognized and not evaded,” said Johnson, who participated in a political ad for McDonnell’s gubernatorial bid last fall and headlined several fundraisers during his campaign against Democrat R. Creigh Deeds.
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), a member of the black caucus, accepted the governor’s apology Wednesday but said he was disappointed that the state had to undergo the embarrassment and national scrutiny that followed the proclamation. “It’s a black eye,” he said.
McDonnell revived a controversy that had been dormant for years. Confederate History Month was started by Gov. George Allen (R) in 1997. Allen’s successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), included anti-slavery language in his proclamation.
In 2002, Mark R. Warner, Gilmore’s successor, broke with their actions, calling such proclamations a “lightning rod” that did not help bridge divisions between whites and blacks in Virginia. Four years later, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was asked to issue a proclamation but did not.