VA Gov. McDonnell Angers Civil Rights Advocates with Declaration
Virginia Governor Robert F Mc Donnell has angered civil rights leaders with his revival of Confederate History Month
Conflict follows on Gay workers' protection controversy
GOP Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia has declared that April will be Confederate History Month in his state. By doing so, he has revived an eight year old conflict and angered civil rights leaders.
Honoring those who fought for the South in the Civil War, the month proclamation is said to be mainly symbolic. Two previous Democratic governors had refused in their terms to acknowledge the month.
Reviving a Tradition of Controversy
McDonnell has revived a tradition begun by Republican Governor George Allen in 1997. McDonnell, though, has gone a step further than his predecessor, leaving out anti-slavery language that Allen's successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), had asked be included in his proclamation.
McDonnell said Tuesday that the move was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."
Sovereign States Rights
Within the 7 pages of the Declaration, Virginians are asked to understand the sacrifices of confederate leaders and soldiers during the Civil War crisis.
April also honors child abuse prevention, organ donations, financial literacy and crime victims in the state. McDonnell had the proclamation posted on his Governor's website last week, when it became noticed by media today.
McDonnell and State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli were embroiled last month in a controversy when they attempted to remove special gay rights protections for state workers in public colleges and universities.
The proclamation could change that view among Republicans who believe appropriate respect for the state's Confederate past has been erased by an over-allegiance to political correctness, observers said.
Some academics and political conservatives have applauded McDonnell for his action, and say that it supports the fight for states rights and energizes his conservative base.
The NAACP of VA along with Virginia's legislative black caucus called the proclamation an insult to a large segment of the state's population, especially with the tacit approval of slavery.
"Governor McDonnell's proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed," said Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic."
Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and many of its statesmen were slave holders. Since the Reconstruction period's beginning, the state in 1989 made L Douglas Wilder the first African American governor.
McDonnell's is eager to attract companies to Virginia in order to re-energize the state's economy. Some say that corporations might begin to perceive McDonnell's proclamation -- preceded by Cuccinelli's decision to sue the federal government over health-care reform legislation and his advice to state colleges and universities that they remove sexual-orientation language from their anti-discrimination policies -- as behaviors that may become liabilities for them and their employees.
McDonnell's proclamation comes just before the April 17, 1861, anniversary of the day Virginia seceded from the union.
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