Confederate Memorial Day has been celebrated in Brazos County for more than 100 years every April 26. But apparently that has not been enough celebration. Because this week, Brazos County commissioners signed a proclamation to celebrate Confederate history for the entire month of April, now known as “Confederate History and Heritage Month” in those parts.
The commissioners, however, made clear that this does not mean they are condoning slavery: “Our recognition of Confederate history also acknowledges that slavery was one of the causes of the war, and was ended by the war and is hereby condemned,” the proclamation states. When we reached one of the commissioners and asked why Brazos County decided to do this, he said it was Sons of Confederate Veterans who requested it, and that, anyway, they've always celebrated Confederate history, so this is nothing new.
Requesting Confederate History Month in counties across the South is just one of the various ways in which Sons of Confederate Veterans has worked to honor its Confederate ancestors. The organization's position is that the Confederacy was not fighting for slavery but against unfair export taxes on cotton. One of the group's members, Marshall Davis, told the Houston Press on Thursday that people who argue Confederate symbols are offensive are simply too concerned about political correctness and hurting people's feelings. He also said people opposed to the Stars-and-Bars just don't understand that the war was not about slavery. And that's why, Davis said, the group has had to fight to preserve its heritage.
In the recent past, the group has fought in court to block the University of Texas at Austin from removing a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a fight it didn't win. It has also fought all the way up to the United States Supreme Court against Texas's decision to prevent the group from displaying the Confederate flag on its license plates; it also didn't win that one. And it has fought on the floor of the Texas Legislature against a bill that would move Confederate Heroes Day to May instead of January, so that it was not so offensively close to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, and also rename it more appropriately as "Civil War Remembrance Day." The group won that one.
But to other historians, you can't honor the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy without honoring what they fought for.
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“They are honoring the soldiers for fighting for slavery…but they condemn slavery. That, to put it mildly, is contradictory,” said Ed Dorn, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas. “It's hard to honor someone for a cause that you think is morally abhorrent.”
Dorn compared honoring the Confederate soldiers for their brave, selfless service to honoring suicide bombers for their brave, selfless acts of violence. He took particular issue with the note on which Brazos County's proclamation ends, which says the purpose of the celebration is to “honor those devoted men and women who fought and died for Texas, and to give thanks for their unselfish sacrifice to that [sic] future generations might live free and prosper.”
“I'll attach Donald Trump's favorite word to that statement,” Dorn said. “It's just stupid.”
None of the Brazos County officials who actually drafted the proclamation returned multiple requests for comment. We'll update if they do.