(CNN) - For the first time in eight years, Virginia's Republican governor has issued a proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month in the state, drawing criticism from Democrats and a civil rights group.
"It is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present," Gov. Robert McDonnell's seven-paragraph proclamation reads in part.
He quietly made the declaration after two previous Democratic administrations refused to do so.
"This defining chapter in Virginia's history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians," the governor's proclamation reads.
It does not mention slavery.
"I wish he would have followed the examples of Gov. [Mark] Warner and Gov. [Tim] Kaine, but obviously he has declined to do so," state Sen. Don McEachin, a Democrat, told CNN affiliate WWBT. "I also find it interesting that while he issues his proclamation, there's no mention of slavery."
The Virginia chapter of the NAACP also condemned the proclamation, The Washington Post reported. The group did not immediately return phone calls to CNN.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans asked the governor to declare the month Confederate History Month. Virginia seceded from the union on April 17, 1861.
Brandon Dorsey, a spokesman for the group, told CNN Radio that Confederate History Month isn't about slavery or race, but about studying the 4-year history of the Confederacy. He said it will also help draw visitors to the many Civil War battle sites in Virginia, helping to boost tourism.
"The proclamation's main goal is to call attention to the fact that there is Confederate history in the state of Virginia, of course, across the South. It's simply a tool to expose individuals to that history. It's not a mandate in any way. It's a symbolic gesture."
He said the group doesn't consider the history of the Confederacy or Virginia's Confederate History Month racially divisive. "It's not meant to discriminate against anybody," he said.
He said that the Confederacy wasn't about continuing the institution of slavery, but that it was really about the states' rights vs. the rights of the federal government. He said there were abolitionists in the group.
Other Southern states have issued similar proclamations for April. In Alabama, Republican Gov. Bob Riley declared April, the month the Civil War began, as Confederate History and Heritage Month. The statement condemns slavery.
We get a black president and now this guy wants to celebrate the confederacy. One step forward, two steps back.
In a couple week's time, the Republicans have spent donor's money at a lesbian bondage club, created "confederate appreciation month" and the exec of the coal mine that blew up and killed hard working citizens had paid off multiple Republican politicians. You must be tired....
Wow, I guess we knew that McDonnell's ideas were a little outdated ... but I was thinking 1950's (not 1850's).
Predictable action when you elect a bigot.
That's funny. I thought the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan already made this proclamation.
So these eager beaver "patriots" like celebrating an insurgency whose aims were to destroy the United States and to maintain slavery? Good going. Light the fireworks for that! So very impressive.
Seems like Republicans in VIrginia are quite insecure and cannot let go of their glorious past of slavery, ignorance and rebellion. Ho Hum.
This is akin to Germany celebrating National Socialism Month!
Well it looks like Southern Confederate loving Republican Governor of Virginia is honoring the traitorous Confederacy. It is too bad Uncle Billy Sherman did not do more damage to the south. This is just another example why the South should have never been readmitted into the union.
One step forward for mankind; two steps backwards for the retard governor and his tea baggers!
So much for the so called "Party of Lincoln!" We all knew Republicans don't live up to the ideals of President Lincoln. Now it's their official policy!
Why do Republicans so hate America?
He seems to forget that there would not have been a confederacy if not for the southern land owners wanting to keep the statis quo, namely slavery.
Wow Virginia voters! you should be proud. Your governor isn't even trying to hide his biases!
So now the state of Virginia will honor the Confederacy, which attempted to DIVIDE our Nation, wanted SLAVERY to continue and stood for everything vile and hateful!
BECAUSE of the Confederacy, 628,000 people died (Wikipedia), is this reason to "honor" them with a "history month"?
Well, Virginia, your true colors are showing IF you allow this!
I wonder, does ALL of Virgina welcome honoring the Confederacy, or just REAL Virgina? I ask because in my humble opinion, honoring the ACT of TREASON against our government seems rather repugnant . . .
Surprise! Virginia voted for a bigot. Just like the Tea party people are going to do.
Truly unamerican Governor. You've stiired up a can of worms now. I knew you were a scumbag from the jump.
IMPEACH MCDONNEL NOW!!!
So Gov. McDonnell (R) is basically celebrating Torture, Rape, Murder and Genocide....
Reverse vote pandering–he wants to see if Republicans can receive less than 1% of the black vote in November. Hey, worth a shot!
tThe good old usa has a history of violence, and violation of civil rights, this guy is an idiot, Slavery has nothing to do with free speech or democracy, it's just pure evil, as was the Trail of Tears, why celebrate something evil, if you ask me, it just a mean-spirited attempt and celebrating racism.
You go Bob!
Let see, you balanced the budget on the backs of the disabled and mentally impaired, you cut the school budget, and best of all, you opened up the rest stops on I-81. Now, you celebrate the finer points of Virginia's history, a conferederate state supporting slavery.
Thank goodness you are limited to one term.
Let's not pretend this isn't a redneck rebuttal to black history month.
And Nazism had nothing to do with the Holocaust, because, you know, it was all about German rights and stuff.
Good job, Governor ostrich!
Virginia honoring the Confederacy is like Germany honoring the Nazis!
I am going to call or email in protest!
This is just what one expects from the South. I'm from the South, and this shows how backward and racial that we are. When the whole South is solid red, we get what we elected.
Seems like typical Republican behavior. Fixated on the past, bitter, scared about the future. Must be tough.
How can you talk about the "civil war" and not talk about slavery.
Is he going to have a month were the issue of slavery is remembered?