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An Open Letter To Governor Bob McDonnell On Virginia’s Confederate History Month

by @ 9:59 am on April 9, 2010. Filed under Bob McDonnell, History, Virginia, Virginia Politics

Dear Governor McDonnell:

I am writing to express my profound disappointment your decision earlier this month to issue a proclamation designating April to be Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Speaking as someone who voted for you last year based on the campaign you ran, this is not the image of the Old Dominion that I want to see spread across the nation, and I think it’s unfortunate that you choose to issue a proclamation that has resulted in just that.

First, it was an egregious mistake to fail to include any reference to the role that the institution of slavery played in the run up to the Civil War and in life in Virginia under the Confederacy. As you said in the amended proclamation that you issued yesterday afternoon “the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights.” While you corrected this mistake yesterday, it is disturbing to me that you, or someone in your office, apparently considered the very reason for the Civil War to be irrelevant to a proclamation about the Civil War.

More important than the omission of slavery, though, is the very idea of having a “Confederate History Month” in the 21st Century. It’s worth noting that in his Cornerstone Speech in March 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens called slavery and the subjugation of  an entire race to be the cornerstone upon which the Confederate States of America were founded. Setting aside a day to commemorate such a government, or even just Virginia’s involvement in that government,  is not in fitting with the image that Virginia, one of the birth places of the American Revolution and home to some of it’s greatest Presidents, should be projecting to the rest of the United States and the world.

As the public reaction to the proclamation has made clear, the idea of Confederate History Month is understandably offensive to African-American citizens of Virginia. At the same time, though, I do recognize the fact that many Virginians have family members who served in the Army of Northern Virginia who believe that their ancestors should receive some remembrance for the sacrifice that they made.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of marking Confederate History Month, the Commonwealth should designate April of each year, and April is appropriate because it is the month in which Virginia’s involvement in the war both began and ended, as Virginia Civil War History Month.

Instead of just marking the state’s association with a nation with a checkered history, such a month could be a method of remembering the pivotal historic role that the Old Dominion, and it’s citizens, played in the most pivotal event in the history of America. Virginia was, after all, the site of more Civil War battles than any other state, including both the first and the final battles of that war. Moreover, such a month could also serve to remember the Virginian’s who fought for, or otherwise supported, the Union while living in enemy territory; including those Virginian’s who decided to secede from their home state altogether.

Virginia Civil War History Month could serve to remember the Virginians who fought and died for both sides during our nation’s worst time without the taint of honoring a regime created to preserve the institution of human bondage. It could also be a tremendous opportunity to teach people about Virginia’s role in the Civil War, on both side.

We can’t forget the Civil War altogether, of course, but there are better ways to commemorate it than what we are doing this year.

I hope you’ll consider these thoughts next year before signing any proclamation.


Douglas Mataconis
Warrenton, Virginia

4 Responses to “An Open Letter To Governor Bob McDonnell On Virginia’s Confederate History Month”

  1. Riley says:

    Well said.

    Now can we get that traitor Jefferson Davis’s name off of Route 1?

  2. Riley says:

    He wasn’t even a Virginian.

  3. Let's Be Free says:

    Nice job!

  4. misti furr says:

    Well put!

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