It’s true – there is actually a holiday called “Confederate Memorial Day.” It was started after the end of the Civil War by an organization in Georgia to “memorialize the Confederate war dead.” You can read more about it at this article in Wikipedia.
Memorializing soldiers who died in a war is one thing; approving an official state holiday to celebrate the “lost cause of the Confederacy” and the institution of slavery is something else entirely. And yet, that is what many Old South states have done. Including Kentucky.
Yes, our state has declared June 3 of each year to be both “Confederate Memorial Day” and “Jefferson Davis Day.” Don’t believe me? Here’s the statute itself – not passed in the 1800s, or in the early 20th century. No, our General Assembly passed this in 1992.
According to the Courier-Journal, Rep. Jason Nemes tried to get the two Confederate holidays taken out of the statute in 2017:
In the wake of a violent white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017 that left dozens injured and one dead, State Rep. Jason Nemes attempted to nix the holidays from the Kentucky statutes. But it fell short.
Nemes, a Louisville Republican, told Courier Journal on Sunday that there wasn’t enough support to get rid of them.
“At this point, I don’t think we are there yet,” Nemes said. “I sure hope the Kentucky legislature gets rid of them, but there just wasn’t enough interest.”
Nemes did say he thought the removal of the plaque from the Jefferson Davis statue was good progress.
SPLC condemns the observance
In a press release, the Southern Poverty Law Center condemned the ongoing celebration of Confederate Memorial Day across the Old South. Here’s the statement from their chief of staff, Lecia Brooks:
“Since Reconstruction, Confederate symbols have been used by white supremacists as tools of racial terror. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected hundreds of memorials to the Confederacy across the United States as part of an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people.
“This is the heritage they continue to champion. One that not only is reflected in monuments, but also in school names, parks, municipalities, military bases, roadways, prisons, and flags, all ‘honoring’ a history of brutality and racial subjugation. Sadly, many southern states protect and defend this legacy by establishing laws that protect these symbols of hate and white supremacy.
“But there is hope. Many Americans are taking action to challenge oppression and counter false narratives, and Black people are often leading the way. Communities are coming together to create more inclusive public spaces that reflect liberation, not oppression.
“In 2020, 170 Confederate symbols were removed from the U.S. landscape. And this year, 31 Confederate memorials have been removed or are pending removal.
“And yet, there is much work to be done. Thousands of these symbols still litter our public spaces as reminders of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We recognize that removing these symbols is only the first step. We must work for racial justice and an honest reckoning with our country’s past and present. That cannot be accomplished by removing a memorial or renaming a school, but it is a necessary step.”
Perhaps, as part of the progress noted in that statement, the Kentucky General Assembly could remove its imprimatur from celebrating slavery.
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