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. Mal Hinson

    I am a history major. My focus of study was the civil war. It's completely and totally false to say the war fought over slavery! The war was over states rights to rule themselves above the federal government. Economics and self rule. Southern states considered right to susceed was by the bill rights same as America to England for self rule. The Federal declearation of war list 19 reasons of which slavery is one.

    April 15th 1861 US congress declared war. Slavery was abolisted in the Federal northern states 2.5 years after the war started, Jan 1st 1863.

    11% of the confederate army soldiers owned slaves. It's wrong to say 6.5 milliion men left home and went to war over slavery.

    Interesting note: Robert E. Lee had freed his families slaves 20 years before the war because he opposed slavey. He was deeply religious man of high moral charactor. And was offered rank of commanding general of the Federal army before joining the south as a colonel.

    April 8, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  2. stillonline

    As a NC native – my ancestors were abolitionists and died fighting the rich slave-owners. In the south only the poor men, who owned no slaves, fought.
    As for a celebration for each – how about a month to honor dead hippies? The started a revolution and failed. How about a month to honor them?

    April 8, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  3. Rachel McIntire

    Joe, if you call the Confederates "traitors" you then call the founding fathers "traitors".

    April 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  4. Kevin

    This doesn't make sense. why should the governor bring up such an issue.its like germany saying lets have hitler day

    April 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  5. Eddie Monroy

    Wow. It’s really just absurd that they would omit something like that. Bob McDonnell's added language to the proclamtion helps but seriously what the hell was he thinking. Brag Bowling is a complete idiot and it’s shocking that he would not acknowledge slavery’s importance in all this when speaking to Roland and Anderson. Ridiculous!

    April 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  6. Richard

    Reading through some of the comments, it is clear that most people do not have an understanding of the history of the Civil War beyond the elementary school level.

    The common slogan that "it was about slavery" is much too simplistic and does not even come close to describing a true and accurate picture of the Civil War period.

    Everyone knows that slavery was wrong and a mistake, that is not at issue here. Roland was hearing only what he wanted to hear, and in my estimation he (along with most other people as well) does that much too often.

    The Confederate gentleman never said that slavery was a good thing, but both Anderson and Roland seemed to be hearing that message somehow. The truth is that the Civil was about MUCH more than slavery, in 1865 slavery was not the main issue–as much as people might like it to be. Roland needs to check his emotions for a minute and open his ears.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  7. Liveupright

    The civil war was not fought over slavery. It was a war of interests as most wars in history. Truth is the first casualty of war. It should be noted that Lincoln ,by using conscription, enslaved free men to fight the civil war. Conscription led to riots in the north which in turn led Lincoln to suspend Habeas Corpus. This allowed the goverment to imprison it's critics without formal chargers and without trial. Under the guise of opposing slavery American citizens in the north were put into military combat against their will and thrown into jail without due process.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  8. Belle

    WOW! as an African American teacher in VA, I am appauled that a govenor that ran on a platform for education reform and for teachers pay raises to focus on a month to honor individuals who went against Gods principals. Govenor McDonell, seems to forget that Virginia like other states is in major trouble budget wise. I figure that we need to spend more time trying to figure out how to keep class sizes lower and teachers teaching vs. honoring and validating the institution of slaverly, in which thousands of blacks were murdered and black women were raped. Oh! by the way VA is looking to take the word of slaverly out of the history books.Again, this is a state that is still holding on to the concepts of seperate but equal. Trust me as an educator in this state racism still exists.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  9. Andrew

    The confederates fought and died to keep their way of life. That society accepted and in many ways promoted the institution of slavery. The debate of slavery was the primary cause of the civil war. State rights vs. Federal rights was just the short term cause and preserving the Union was the battle cry for the North. Individuals can celebrate the confederacy if they want but our rights only extend as far as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. A state government creating a holiday for the confederacy is the same as a German state having a Nazi Awareness month.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  10. Joe Lafornara

    The Confederates were traitors to the United States of America. They started an armed insurection and were put down. End of story as far as I'm concerned.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • Liveupright

      Actually Joe – Lincoln could have been a traitor based on his suspending of the constitution and laws of conscription. Slavery became an issue at the end of this war as a last ditch effort. The emancipation proclamation allowed slavery to continue in states under federal control. The real issue as with all wars is MONEY!

      April 8, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  11. DPerdue

    I am a proud southern but I am tired of hatred. Either wew all come to the table and agree on everything or keep our mouths shut. To me if you take away 1 heritage month like the Confederate Soldiers month then we should do away with all of them even BlacK Heritage Month. Not all people had slaves in the south and Not all Slaves were abused. Thank goodness in my direct family line we had no slaves . Either we support all groups even Indians and give them heritage time or we support none of them

    April 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  12. Mike B.

    Come on folks, get the cotton out of your ears! I think it is hilarious how some, if not most, African Americans think that only "blacks" were the only people enslaved. Ever. Open your eyes, and read up some history. The South seceeded for numerous reasons, slavery being a minor one. The South seceeded because they wanted states' rights! Also, I hate to rain on your black pride parade, but slaves were not the only people / civilians murdered, raped, etc. by either army! What is wrong with commemorating this momentous part of history? I do not see anyone protesting Civil War reenactments! Saying we should not commemorate the Confederacy because a couple of race groups feel violated, even they were not involved in the conflict in any way, is like saying we should not celebrate Black History Month because the KKK and other supremicists are pissed off! Jesus Christ, people! Stop being ignorant for once in your lives, and accept the truth and facts.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  13. J Thornhill

    I am not originally from the South, but I live there now. It is frightening to see the nostalgia some people feel for the "good old days." Frankly it is offensive to me and should be to all people of good will. Slavery was evil and criminal. You cannot separate the confederacy from slavery. Rolan was correct in his comments.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  14. Alina Khachatouri

    I am a fifth grade teacher, and my students are now learning about the Civil War and the causes of the Civil War. The slave states seceded from the Union because Lincoln was elected president, and they knew the country was not going to last half free and half slave. The Confederacy began in order to not only keep slavery but also spread it to the new western territories. To celebrate Confederacy is to celebrate Nazism as part of Germany's history. My 11 year old students know that Confederacy is synonymous with slavery, its oppressions, and horror. Now, why would anyone want to celebrate that?

    April 7, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  15. Ron , West Coast

    The Civil war has been fought and lost by the Confederacy . Those who want to celebrate the fact that one race of people owned and terroized another race of people is really pathetic , especially here in the 21st century ! The governor of Viriginia should be ashamed of his states history , and himself for aiding and abetting the displaying of the Rebel flag ( that still flies over some southern state house buildings ) which for a whole other race of American citizens means fear , lynching , and a host of other horrible things put upon them and their families . The good and intelligent citizens of America demand that this blatantly racist and distructive activity by elected officials be met with strong opposition ! .... Celebration Indeed ....

    April 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  16. Brian Maguire

    The Civil War was a glaring example of history being written by the winners. It is only fair for Virginians to have a chance to teach history with some sympathy for the brave people who lost the war.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  17. Tina A.

    It is so sad to think that a Governor would actually celebrate Confederate History. It shows his true colors. DO NOT RE-ELECT HIM! This country was built on hatred. And it's people like this Governor and the that Confederate organizator that keep it alive and well. Some people(especially white) say we should get over it. Unless you or anyone else in your family has been through the humiliation of being treated as a second class citzen, you need to be quiet! My parents are from the South and grew up in the times of being totally disrepected because of their skin color. So, yes I take it personal!

    April 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  18. Indy

    Uhh... did he say slavery was a worldwide institution? First, this country was relatively late in abolishing slavery. Second, forget a worldwide institution, slavery was not even a nationwide institution! Hence the war! That man sounded absolutely foolish.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  19. jason

    this whole thing makes me mad. i don't complain when america celebrates black history month, or when dr. martin luther king jr is forced down my throat. but the moment a white person says "hey, what about us and our history?" we are spat upon and called racists. when will this double standard ever end? why can't i be proud of who i am and the things my people have done? why am i called racist for remembering my ancestors' past? i have fought two wars for this country and this is how i am treated fot it. i'm growing tired of all this liberal crap and i'm not alone.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  20. Lauren

    It is shocking to me, both to see Brag Bowling on AC360 shrug off Martin's protests of horror, as well as to see comments here also exhibiting blatant racism. If the governor of Virginia is so compelled to celebrate armed forces fighting for, let's admit, the permanence of slavery, then he MUST also issue a proclamation officially apologizing for slavery if he is going to insist that he does not celebrate or honor it. Brag Bowling and his association must also issue a public apology if they are going to claim that they do not celebrate slavery. Bowling insists that our education of the Civil War must be thorough and unapologetic so that we have a full spectrum of understanding of our American history, but to shrug off outcries of horror make his motives questionable at best, inherently evil at worst.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  21. Charles Liggett

    I listened to the argument just now regarding the holiday. Without going into all the pre-civil war compromises and issues leading to the war, lets remember the facts here about how the US government saw the "Rebelling" South. The Confederates as they called themselves, remember they were not recognized by the US government as a separate government, but rather as a "Rebellion" against the US government. The Confederate soldiers, nor even the "Rebellious" Confederate governments deserve recognition. When we have "rebels" today we see them as such oe as even criminals. Tim McVey bombed a government building in Oklahoma City in rebellion of the US government, are we someday down the line supposed to honor the likes of Tim McVey. The CSA was a "Rebellion" against the USA. Okay, its horrible that Southerners were caught up in the movement, it does not change the fact that they were "Rebelling" against the US government. Why should they be honored? Would we honor such a rebellion today?

    April 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  22. jesus torralba

    This is a touchy subject.

    On the one hand the confederate army were just following orders, is part of the American history and should be honored for their service, probably with retirement and such.

    On the other hand what about the black people who had their rag tag defense groups against the confederate government? Shouldn't they be honored as well? They are part of the American history too... and probably with somekind of similar thing like the retirement and honors of the confederate army.

    All in all both sides are correct! But should recognize the merits of both arguments and salute and remember the pain and suffering of both sides.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  23. Brett

    After seeing the representative from Sons of the Confederacy(sic) i am both speechless and frightened.

    Speechless because I heard a man say he was not there to defend the absolute abomination of slavery but to laud the mis-guided souls who would have destroyed or taken over our country.

    Frightened because he and those like him believe there is similar justification in our current lives.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  24. A. Smith

    In the televised debate, Mr. Martin correctly points out the terrible evil of slavery. However, he would be wise to remember a little-known fact about Civil War history and the Confederate Army- that there were a significant number of African-Americans who fought in the Confederate Army, and presumably would also be honored among those who served in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Let's stop the Nazi name calling- it doesn't do anyone any good on either side! Instead, let's be aware of our nation's rich and complex history, apologize for any evils and wrongs, do our best in working towards forgiveness, and honor every American who served and continues to serve in combat.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  25. J Warren

    The civil war was about federal power vs. state power. That is a fact. It was not about slavery or any social agenda. Its primary purpose was where authoritative power ultimately laid- with the feds or with the states. The abolishment of slavery was wonderful but it was a side effect- not the main aim of the north (federal power).

    April 7, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  26. Lauralee

    Roland Martin needs to direct his anger in the direction of Washington D.C. I believe just as recently as March 2010, the U.S. of A pledged $1 billion+ dollars to Haiti. Last I heard, slavery is very much alive in today's Haiti. If Roland wants to blow a gasket on TV, why not blow toward Washington.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  27. michelle williasey

    It is horrible to seethat the govenor, or whoever this gentlemen was would want to remind other cultures of how blacks were put down, killed, tarred and feathered, demeaned and so forth during the confederacy. I think he lost his ability to think properly. there is no month for jewish who were killed and treated like garbage during the hollocaust, so why should there be a month for people to be reminded of how horrible blacks were treated?

    i think this will be one of the worst things that can be done. it is disgusting and one of the most incencitive things that could be done, but then again the govenor doesnt care about anybody but himself and if he thought this made him look good, he will not be recieveingmy vote next time.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  28. Paul

    I'm sorry but your esteemed guest who thinks Slavery was the cause of the Civil War is rewriting history. If that was indeed the case why did it take until 1863 for Lincoln to issue the emancipation proclamation. While slavery was an evil thing, lets be clear and challenge our guest on the facts.... Just the facts Mr. Anderson.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  29. steve

    It is a shame that us southerners are still having to fight this battle.My ancestors fought in the famed Confederate Orphan Brigade.The gentleman that is up in arms about slavery should know that the Union general U.S. Grant was a slave owner from Ohio . General Lee on the other hand was from Va. and did not own slaves. History is written by the victor . As Walt witman Said" Future years will not know the seathing hell and black inferno of this war , and it is best they do not , the real war will not get in the books " . It is my belief that if there can be a "black history month" then we Should also be able to celebrate our heritage also.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  30. frankie

    That man defending the Virginia governor was just plain creepy; creepy like the fact that Sarah Palin's husband once fooled around with Alaskans who wanted to secede from the USA. These people need to read Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Roland Martin, right on!

    April 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  31. lee

    The primary difference between the constitution of the united states and the constitution of the confederacy is that the constitution of the confederacy contained clauses that effectively made any law outlawing slavery unconstitutional.

    Another point is that England abolished slavery several years before the American Revolution, while the American colonies were stil under English rule. So, the question is why didn't the colonies follow the law of England and abolish slavery at that time. Such a brutal, and inhumane system was and is still indefensible no matter how anyone tries to dress it up.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  32. C. Ketchum

    After just seeing this portion of the show, all I have to say is, both sides MOVE ON!!! We have every right to focus on Confederate history, just as we focus on Native American history, African American history, etc. Whether we like it or not, it is a chapter of OUR history, and we can can and should learn from it. The two gentlemen currently debating this issue on your show are both narrow minded men who refuse to see the whole issue. This is what leads to continued bias in America.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  33. Kevin

    I am getting extremely tired of African americans milking the slavery card. I am a native american so I am coming from the same stand point that african americans are with being mistreated throughout history. I do not sit around all day and talk about how evil white people are. Millions of my own people were slaughtered by the United States and I do not sit around asking everyone else to feel sorry for me. They need to realize that it is a new day in age and that nearly every civilization was victim to slavery at some point in time throughout history, It is not like they are the only ones. GET OVER IT

    April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  34. kelly

    With regards to the Confederate History month, I do not agree with it b/c I think that it would only be looking at one half of the war. If anything it should be a Civil War history month, b/c the war was not just fought by southerns. The Union should also be studied and all aspects of the war along with it. I do think that all history should studied and learned from, but only when all sides are looked at.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  35. Teresa Smith

    Anderson, I understand the Gov. made a mistake he rewrote it, now I believe it is history not to made a big fight over. Now pressing matters that we should go back to is the West Va mining explosion. The people want to know & I would much rather see this all over the news than the Gov of Va about the Confederate history. By the way you do a great job, we enjoy watching your show...

    April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  36. Jim Ohio

    Somebody needs to give Roland Martin a chill pill. I don't understand why he is always allowed to interupt other guests and to make personal attacks.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  37. Amanda

    I can't believe that we are arguing this in 2010! Seriously, there are SO MANY more pressing & important issues to debate TODAY. I don't really care if Virginia has Confederate History month. We have Africa American History month. It seems as though there is a month for everything. I don't like hotdogs, but there's a National Hot Dog month. Maybe the vegetarians or vegans are offended...

    April 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  38. Meg

    This entire situation has been blown completely out of proportion. Why shouldn't there be a Confederate History month? We have Black History month. When will there be a Native American History month? No one disputes the atrocity of slavery. However, to make the Confederacy solely about slavery is wrong. That's not entirely what that war was about and it meant different things for different people.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  39. dewy

    I think that African-Americans are way to sensitive about the confederate flag and Virginia wanting to make April the month to celebrate the confederate soldier. They were people that fought for what they believed in.

    I'm American Indian but you don't find American Indian tribal leaders getting getting all bent out of shape because of one celebration or another.

    In the 1800's our Federal Government and the Military were commiting genocide on American Indians. Our sources of food, clothing, tepee's and much much more were descimated. The Bison. Women and children were slaughtered, and later when the public began to voice their disgust of the practices of our Govt & Military, children were sent to schools to learn the white way, and forbiden to use their own language; and given Chriistian names.

    Indians were put on reservations, and some tribes are not recognized because almost all, were killed.

    Even today, some States want to close casinos that are used to educate tribal members and to show Indians that they can be as good or useful as any one else.

    I think that this issue in Virginia is over blown. After all it is part of American history. Our kids are being dumbed down. If parts of our history as a country might offend some, it is taken out of books. Pretty soon there won't be any American History at all!

    All Americans aren't thrilled about watching Black History with Soledad O'brian or know that therte is a Black History month.

    This country is large and diverse. We should be proud to be Americans, not Black Americans or Irish, Mexican, Italian, Polish, Vietnamese, French, German, Spanish or Jewish Americans. THIS IS AMERICA, and I'm proud to be an American!!!

    Let all the petty stuff go. Blacks were slaves, so were every other race at one time or another in the history of the world.


    April 7, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  40. David Neel

    Virginia didnt have the largest amout of slaves durning the early 1700's to the late 1865. I agree that even today we still fight the same political factors today.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  41. Matt Gross

    Im listen to this conversation currently and i noticed Anderson said something along the lines of "why should blacks have to recognize the confederate history by the state of Virginia." Well im white, why should i have to celebrate Martin Luther King day if im not black, and i dont believe i should.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  42. Ray

    So should we also cancel President's Day also ... since George Washington was a slave owner and supported slavery.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  43. Ben Phillips

    My family has lived in South Carolina since before the Civil War, never were slaves owned by our family, states rights was the reason behind the fight. Your guest that suggests that slavery was the reason... It still is going on today, sex slaves in the US is a horrible thing. If he wants to get his history right check out the Irish slaves and German slaves in the north during the 1900's.

    We need to have something to remember the soldier but not a month long event. If was family member against family member in many cases. It was a right to life and states rights.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  44. Judy

    This truly is a sad day for Virginia. The debate is over and so is the American Civil War. The Union won and the Confederate lost! The governor of Virginia has provided “this group” with national attention. The spokesman for that group mentioned “honoring” those who fought in battles against sometimes as many as three times as many soldiers. He failed to mention the American military–“the Union”–was the one with all those soldiers. Another important fact that’s often overlooked is that the state of West Virginia resulted from the division of the Virginia citizenry over secession. Prior to that decision, Virginia included what later became West Virginia. Clearly, then as now, the majority of Virginians do not support the confederate position or welcome honoring something that deeply divided not only our nation but our beloved Commonwealth.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  45. Jim

    Will we ever move on and get past the us against them mentatally. I would like to think of every American as has the same rights to freely celebrate whatever it is they like without making such a big deal.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  46. Kevin

    How can african americans be upset with "confederate history month" when they have "black history month?" Seems pretty double standard to me.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  47. lisa

    If it's truly about history it should be Civil War history month. The story can't be correctly told with out telling all sides.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  48. Tim O'Shea

    The Confederacy was fought over states rights. The Union declared war on anyone in the south who succeeded and Virginia was in the south and succeeded.

    The American Civil War was not a war on slavery until 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  49. Moses

    The Governor should step down he has shown his true agenda , and that is to encite racism and terrorism. Virginians should rally to remove this embarrasment from office. Iam surprised that he did not use the famouse saying"The south shall rise again.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  50. Koko

    The first shot was fired on January 10, 1861. It was fired by the South Carolinians on Morris Island. They fired on the Union Ship "Star of the West" as it attempted to reinforce Major Anderson at Fort Sumter. The North did not start the Civil War. Roland Martin, you rock! 🙂

    April 7, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
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