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. Darlene

    I am appalled that someone would want to have a confederacy month. The biggest reason for the Civil War was slavery. That is a fact. Its a shame that people want to celebrate the brutal beatings, and the other things black people had to contend with in this country. Shame on you, Governor.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Ron from PA

    First it was the Tea Party. Then it was the Michigan Militia. Now it is the Sons of the Confederacy. Since President Obama was elected, more and more of these hate groups are popping onto the scene.

    Anyone who thinks these groups are not dangerous is either lying or in denial!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  3. Kentucky Orphan

    Slavery wasn't right, it was wrong in all ways. But the civil war, was a battle over state's rights. The south suceeded from the Union because it wasn't getting the rights it deserved. The North wanted to limit slavery, and stop it from spreading any further. The South didn't like that. But lets take out slavery, and make it religion. Lets say, the Union didn't want the religion of the south spreading. The south would have still suceeded, still causing a war. The war wasn't over slavery, it was over states rights. African Americans were treated just as bad up North as they were in the South, but its the south who gets all the bad rap. Confederate Veterans should be honored just as much as Union Veterans. These people fought, and either way you look at it, it changed our country, and the way we believe. If not for the civil war, we would be without many lessons learned. A Civil War is a war amongst a country, therefore, you need two sides in a country, so both sides should be honored. No matter your beliefs. Also, this happened in 1860, not 2010. This is my opinion. You may believe agree, or may not.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Nina

    Shame on you Gov. McDOnnell and all who would support such an idea to celebrate one of the darkest moments in this country's history. The Confederate Soldiers were nothing more than homegrown terrorists in a different time. Further how dare he ask the African American citizens of Virginia pause to pay homage to a system that sought to continue the brutality and inhumane treatment of slavery. It's insulting and downright disrespectful!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  5. Paul

    P James, Thanksgiving isn't an insult to American Indians... Columbus Day is.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  6. Ylem

    I can not believe that in 2010 these things are still happening in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Are we going back, or moving foward?

    April 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  7. Mike

    The fact is that this is an important part of our history. No one can deny the suffering that the blacks endured. They have their holidays recognizing the role they as a people played in history. Though some may not be proud of the role of the confederacy in our history it is still important to recognize. Those who are forget the past are condemned to repeat it

    April 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  8. Des'mon Wise

    With all the issues in the world, this is the topic we choose to argue over? I'm a black american and while it was not the best way to go about this " celebrating the confederacy" by not mentioning slavery. Recognizing those soldiers who died would be a completely reasonable approach. Ancestry means a lot in this country, but to try to forget history for the sake of preserving the patriotic vision is a step in the wrong direction. i wish we could all just move on from this sadly if we haven't by 2010 then we wont, however it's not like slavery was hundreds of years ago.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  9. JOHN (Richmond,VA)

    I am glad that our Governor of the great state of Virginia has made April, Confederate History MontH. It is long over due. I think it is completely approperate for the Governor to do this. If Black History month can be celibrated then this can defenitly can be celibrated and people can say all they want about slavery being the reason for the war. you are only ignorant and uneducated about the civil war. just incase you dont know this there were black confederate soldiers that fought for the south. the truth is that the south was fighting for its independence from a supressive government that was telling them how they were to live there lives and then when they refused to do so they were invaded by there own country, also dont forget that the souths general , robert e lee, freed his slaves before the war. the norths general grant didnt free his until after the war ended. so i just hope that everyone will learn the truth of the civil war in the years to come as we get really to celibrate the 150th anniverary of the american civil war.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  10. gary w. vaught

    The proclamation that should be coming from the governor of Virginia is an apology for the atrocities committed in his state, unspeakable atrocities against slaves and the Jim Crow laws that followed. It is inconceivable to me that anyone could defend the confederacy and what they stood far. Shame, shame, shame.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  11. Helen Graves

    Please encourage everyone in this country to tour the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. There is a traveling exhibit there (through May 31st) that everyone (black, white, confederate or union) should see. It's called "Without Sanctuary." It includes "Lynching Photography in America." If anyone has any doubts about how bad slavery was, or the treatment of slaves and their descendants, their doubt will be erased. It's a very vivid display. Some of the photos were actually made into postcards and mailed to friends and relatives. Like a postcard from the beach! The most disturbing to me are those with a hanging corpse in the background, a smiling child in the foreground. Smiling, like they were at an amusement park. I literally felt ill. It was one of the most difficult and most profound experiences of my life.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  12. P James

    If Virginian cannot have a Confederate day, because it's offensive to blacks, then why do we in the U.S. have Thanksgiving Day? Isn;t Thanksgiving Day an insult to the indians?

    April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  13. shelia

    Give the south its holiday, we deserve it No different than black history month.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  14. will

    I completely agree with Mr Martin. the confederates attempted seccession almost completely because of the slavery issue, and to talk about the confederate veterans "sacrifice", seems to completely ignore what the slaves had not sacrificed, but were forced to give up. also, when hes was talking about how we were the only state to end slavery through war, he is wrong. the emancipation proclamation only freed slaves in rebel states, and slavery was only made illegal after the war when the southern congressmen were taken out of office. also, he should know that we were one of the last states to give up slavery, and it should be noted that this was after BRITAIN gave up slavery. the confederate veterans were domestic terrorists and do not deserve to be likened to "heroes" at all.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  15. Glenn

    Respect the soldiers who died in the civil war and that includes the confederate soldiers and the union soldiers. It was a trying time for our country. There were several reasons that led to the civil war in our country. Thank you.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  16. Yolanda

    Now history is being re-written? We should celebrate the only flag that is the symbol of freedom for all and not the confederate flag which represented slavery. This is all politically motivated. Those days are long gone and will never come back.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  17. Cynthia McCalop

    Bad idea, but if virgina wants a confererated history month, let them have it. I celebrate Black History month as a african american woman, But the governor of VA has a responsiblity to all the citizens of his state. Part of Conferedate History include the rape, murder, torture, etc of people of color and anyone who says other wise is trying to re-write history. So if your are going to teach that part of american history, you have to teach the good and the bad. And as a afrrican american (and i live in a north carolina approx. 1hr from the VA border,) I can tell you that the once VA puts that "celebration" in place, I will not shop in that state during that month! That is how I will show my displeasure!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  18. Rich

    We should not celebrate and honor a bunch of terrorists! Obviously our governor in VA is trying to appeal to his Republican base!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  19. Gary

    Apr. is also Confederate Heritage month here in Mississippi. We also celebrate Confederate Memorial Day this month. I am a member of the Mississippi Division of the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" having two Great-Great Grandfathers who served proudly with the C.S.A. Neither one owned slaves. This has nothing to do with slavery. At least 90% of soldiers did not own slaves and this excuse to erase our heritage is getting pretty tiring. If you haters don't know your facts, keep your mouth shut!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  20. CLG

    I am ashamed to be a resident of VA. The governor is ridiculous and so is the notion of having this fooloshness celebrated as a holiday. I didn't vote for him and cannot wait until his time in office is over.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  21. Asher Smale

    The civil war was not about slavery period. It was about states rights, study your history. The plain and simple truth is that Lincoln said that if he could keep the union together he would free no slaves if that's what it took, or free them all if that's what it took.

    What I find the most amazing out all of this is the simple fact....why don't we hear the blacks of this country protest the black Africans who sold them into slavery. The slave traders of europe purchased their cargo from the tribes in Africa that won. Understand that I'm not saying that slavery is a good thing but the simple fact is it has been almost 150 since 100,000's of white americans died to end slavery.

    Evil is Evil, and racism is racism, both white on black and black on white it's all very ugly. It's time to stop blaming the past and move into the future.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  22. gary hendricks

    we have black history month why not confederate month

    April 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  23. Adam

    Just Let it Go. The Confederates should rename it Southern History Month. It's catchier, laughing out loud. We should not even react to this ignorance, that is what is wanted. Remain calm and collected and laugh, that is what I do.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  24. Mike Sachs III

    Slavery celebration? 2010?

    April 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  25. Tarheelbrother

    As a native Southerner, Roland Martin has it right. Virginia, North Carolina and every other Confederate state committed a treasonous act when the succeeded from the Union in 1860 and 1861. Historians will cite a lot reasons for the Civil War, but the dominate issue was slavery. It 's sad that white Southerners and some white Northerners wants to fight the war all over again. The South lost. In my opinion, every Confederate political and military leader should have been executed. This is 2010, not 1860. Go Yankees.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  26. dennis grennan

    This is the typical redneck attitude on politics.It makes me sick to my stomach...they dont have a clue.....Pharasees did the same thing in Jesus's time.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  27. Chuck

    Maybe the idea is a little out there. Governor McDonnel apologized; give it a rest. I do find it funny that the left always forgets to consider the part of American history after Reconstruction where the Democrats pretty much marginalized blacks until the 1960s. This is also another example, from both sides of the aisle, of how polarized our nation is becoming.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  28. Mg

    This is totaly wrong, how can u decide to celebrate the torture of people

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  29. Michael

    I wonder what the black members of the Sons of Confederate Soldies feel about this. Because there black members, they may not be noticed but there was a news piece about a year ago on several black members of the Sons of Confederate Soldiers.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  30. GregYohn

    I can see that Roland Martin seems to make the most sense, but as a child I remember visiting the Confederate White House in Richmond, VA from my home in Illinois. We learned the South did the wrong thing, but that other speaker's talk of liberty today is the reason the Governor of VA should not have made his proclamation!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  31. Rhonda C .Smith

    Does Roland think that George Washington was a domestic terrorist? If Virginians were domestic terrorists, isn't it the same. Washington was a traitor to England. Free fighter or terrorist? Get a life. Winners write the history.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  32. sidney

    The man is a racist , plain and simple.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  33. MiGuel Rivera

    SLAVERY is wrong.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  34. Sally A. Graves

    It was not about SLAVERY.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  35. John Bower

    The primary cause of the American Civil War was slavery...that goes for every state that seceded from the Union, including Virginia.

    How about celebrating being an American...part of the 50 states that makes our country.

    Celebrating the "confederacy" IS celebrating slavery....it was part and parcel of the south. Without slaves the south would have NEVER been what they were.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  36. Tyler

    Seriously? I believe we should study history but NOT CELEBRATE it. This resolution should be illegal. Stupid and down right wrong. As a white gay male in Illinois I find this highly offensive.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  37. Stephanie

    If you don't understand why people are upset by Confederacy Appreciation Month, you will never understand....

    April 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  38. Timothy Lowery

    I agree with Roland i am a history major and one of the primary reasons was to stop the spread of slavery to the western states.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm |

    I don't understand why some people are still so sensitive.


    April 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  40. Larry

    How could an elected Governor in the United States of America be so dumb to do this?

    April 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  41. Terri

    What planet are some of these white southern people from? I'm embarrassed to be white and living in the south!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  42. Larry

    He should resign immediatley!!

    April 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  43. Larry

    Racist, Racist, Racist and we not stand for it!!! Its not 1864 or 1964.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  44. Kelly Brisbois

    As an educator, I deeply believe we cannot understand our shared history in the United States if we do NOT understand the history of slavery in our country. We cannot have one without the other.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  45. Annie Kate

    I had ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War – my mother's side was Union; my father's side was Confederate. I would like to honor both sides for their bravery in fighting for something they believed in – home. My family never had slaves – they just fought for their homeland which they believed was their state. I don't see any harm in honoring men who followed their beliefs no matter which side they were on; I do not think it is necessary to be so flagrant about it and renaming the day to something more in keeping with remembrance of these men and women.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  46. Neki

    In regards to the confederacy celebration issue – we do not celebrate the Holocaust! How would the Jews feel? We should not celebrate in any way the confederacy army!!! Never, at all!

    If you wonder...

    I am half black and half white, I see both sides.,.this is wrong...all the way around!! For those of you who do not see it, shame on you! Like, I said, we (USA) want to degrade anyone that participated in the Holocaust...why not think the same for anyone who participated in slavery as well? It is a painful remembrance from anyone who is black..who no doubt had great grandparents who were slaves...lynched, etc...we ALL should understand this and NOT celebrate anything that bring remembrance to that time period!!! Not even a confederate flag.

    Would you want to go visit a slave quarter or plantation??? Most black people would not, because it reminds them of bondage..most whites though want to visit it as a "period in time, a history of the good old cotton era, etc...this will never be the way blacks see it!!! Too many painful memories of family, friends and dignity lost! Just like the holocaust, it should be remembered in museums as a historical moment – – but definitely NOT CELEBRATED IN ANY FLAG OR STATE OR MONTH!!!!!! Please demolish this celebration in all forms!!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  47. micah

    I understand both opinions. I do not agree its a smart move on the governors part though. We should remember that the confederate government was completely against the union, the idea of a united nation, and emancipation. We seem to forget with time the ideals of such people and what they hoped to achieve. Their main cause was to keep people in slavery. We should not glamorize such movements regardless of how historical it may be. We don’t see Germany having, "Hitler Month" or " Nazi remembrance Month". What the governor did is in the same category of ignorance.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  48. Johanna O'Connor

    GIVE THE SOUTH ITS HOLIDAY! AFRICAN AMERICANS ALREADY HAVE THEIRS! They are not celebrating slavery! I don't understand why some people are still so sensitive. If I were to say I was proud to be white I would be considered rasist but there are hundreds of "black" churchs in America, what would people think if I opened a "white"church.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  49. dale richardson

    I think we southerners should be able to celebrate confederate here if we want to, As of now we still have freedom in the USA. There are alot of different things that are celebrated that I do not agree with but it is the peoples choice. After all we had ancestors that died for our rights & what they thought was right. Why NOT celebrate it!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
  50. Jay Engle Grand Island Neb.

    General Lee said -- HERE COME THE CALVERY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHARGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like Hank jr. sang if the south would have won the war the Nations capital would have been in tupalo Miss. HA HA HA HA HA WHEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT A HOOT!!!!!!!!! Lets lighten up we taking our selves way to serious!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE WAR IS ALL OVER FOR US TO ACT SO STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
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