J.R. Hoeft at Bearing Drift has another great piece up about the unfortunate holiday that Virginians celebrate today:
[F]olks believe the days came to fruition simply out of reverence for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Not quite.
The tradition to honor the two generals is more than a century old and began in 1889. Virginians began paying remembrance to Robert E. Lee — nearly nineteen years following his death (and nineteen years following the end of federal military control). The holiday started while Fitzhugh Lee, Robert’s nephew, and fellow confederate officer, served as governor; F. Lee enacted the legislation during his last year in office.
In 1904, Jackson’s name was added by the General Assembly, but in a less than desirable political climate.
Andrew Jackson Montague (born in 1862) was elected governor in 1902 having made two major promises – education reform and the disfranchisement of black voters. During Montague’s term, poll taxes and literacy tests came into being: the very laws we know now as “Jim Crow” laws.
For nearly twenty years following Lee’s death, Virginia did not honor him. It took his nephew on his way out the door from serving in Virginia’s highest office to give him a day. As for Jackson, his day came during a time of deep racial discrimination and mistrust, where some Virginians were looking back to the confederacy with wistful longing.
And that, I think, is exactly what is going on here.
Though it may not be true of everyone who is on the other side of this issue, it’s fairly obvious that there are a number people who continue to believe that the Confederacy was something other than what it actually was, an illegitimate rebellion whose primary purpose was to enshrine and expand the enslavement of an entire race of human beings.