April 7th, 2010
06:31 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Confederate History Month Controversy

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Virginia's Republican governor has opened some deep wounds by issuing a proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month in the state.

That is because the proclamation quietly posted on Gov. Bob McDonnell's web site on Friday did not mention slavery.

That led McDonnell to apologize today for the omission and add the following language to the proclamation:

"It is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and 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, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from his painful part of our history..."

McDonnell points out in his press release late this afternoon that "Virginia history undeniably includes the fact that we were the Capitol of the Confederacy, the site of more battlefields than any other state, and the home of the signing of the peace agreement at Appomattox." He adds, "The state... was also the first in the nation to elect an African-American governor, my friend, L. Douglas Wilder."

But Wilder is quoted in various news reports today saying it is "mind-boggling" that McDonnell didn't reference slavery in his original proclamation. He just spoke on CNN's Campbell Brown and said he's satisfied with the governor's addition to the proclamation that addresses slavery.

Others don't see it that way. Virginia State Sen. Henry Marsh III said the mea culpa was not enough. We'll have all the angles tonight on the program. You'll also hear from Brag Bowling. He's the commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who advised McDonnell on the proclamation.

McDonnell said the move was made to "promote the study of our history" and "encourage tourism" in advance of the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

But two previous Democratic administrations in his state refused to so. It was Virginia's Republican Gov. George Allen who first made the proclamation in 1997, with no condemnation of slavery. His successor, Gov. James Gilmore - another Republican - continued the practice the next year, but added anti-slavery language to the decree. Gilmore also later changed the name of the month to "Virginia's Month of Remembrance of the Sacrifices and Honor of All Virginians Who Served in the Civil War."

Tonight we'll also have the latest developments on the mine explosion in West Virginia. A drill pierced the mine where four missing miners are believed to be, but the levels of carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen are too dangerous to let rescuers in. 25 other miners died in Monday's blast.

Plus, tennis legend Martina Navratilova in her own words sharing her battle against breast cancer. She has a message she wants every women to hear.

Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Tim S.

    Certainly there are better, more appropriate ways to honor the confederate "soldier." Some of the comments on this blog show real ignorance of history so I hope the debate causes them to dive into books instead of simply promulgating their kitchen table-based opinion of the war. The war was about state rights and economics. However, you can't de-couple that from slavery. Slavery directly relates to the cotton and tobacco farming that made up the state of Virginia–completely sustained by slaves viewed as "property" to be protected from the authority of the federal government. No matter how you slice it....state property rights...but the property argued over were human beings.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  2. mark harpole

    The Civil War was tragic in all aspects as was slavery. However states rights were important, it was one check to control the power of the Federal Government. Today our Federal Government grows by leaps and bounds, unchecked for the benifit of few.

    April 8, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  3. Matt W. from MD

    You're certainly right that most southerners didn't own slaves. However, the idea that not all slaves were abused is an oxymoron. Any person deprived of their rights and freedom is abused, in my opinion. If your family line had owned slaves, I think chances are pretty good that you'd be fairly rich. It was only the rich for whom it made financial sense to own slaves; I think the percentage was something like the percentage of people that own personal jets now.

    And Native Americans absolutely deserve recognition. (Apparently the term 'American Indian' is now acceptable, but it doesn't sit right with me.) Their land stolen left and right, genocide committed rather effectively against them (whether intentional or unintentionally via foreign diseases).. casinos and tax exempt status (which I think has been going away, hasn't it?) can't begin to make up for. If the Confederacy deserves official heritage recognition, then certainly so does the Whiskey Rebellion. Not to mention Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Bighorn. I don't mean to suggest we sweep the Confederacy and the Civil War under the carpet, but let's not glamorize it. It was a horribly bloody war, and the issue that sparked it was (unfortunately not the only) one of the darkest, most horrible things in American history. Had the Confederacy given up slavery, set every man, woman, and child free, and still had some issue to secede about, maybe I'd give it some credence.

    April 8, 2010 at 6:29 am |
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