(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.
I consider myself a Republican and this action by the Virginia governor sickens me. It's wrong on so many levels and feeds into the stereotype of what a Republican is. Just terrible.
Hooray, more cowardly crypto-racism from the GOP.
Why does it feel like everything the ultra conservative Republicans are doing recently is a not-so-subtle effort to encourage sedition? As if the torch-wielding Tea Baggers need any encouragement. I fear this is going to turn violent before too long.
Sounds like he wants to have another go at it.They still like the idea of slave labor,thats why they hate unions,love insourcing non taxable labor from Mexico and outsourcing our jobs to other countries.
I don't think they celebrate Third Reich month in Germany.
Let your voices be heard at the polls in the next election! If you voted for the guy or you didn't vote at all than you are responsible for his action. Next time go to the polls and let your voice be heard. It starts in Nov.
I'll say this for him – he's pretty clear where he stands and moves on it. The fact that where he stands is pure bigotry, hatred and setting progress back 150+ years is stunning.
didn't he also reverse the anti-discrimination law the first week he was governor?
I believe that any sensible individual would understand that Gov. McDonnell doesn't approve of slavery. It was a dark era in our country. However, many individuals fighting for the Confederacy weren't fighting to ensure slavery but rather to stand up against the overreaching power of the federal government. It's a fight we are still engaged in to this day howbeit different in nature. Just as it is wrong to deny the recognition of those Americans who stood up for civil rights in the 20th century (i.e. Martin Luther King, Jr), it is wrong to not recognize the lives of those who defended their homes, farms, and communities from the invasion of northern supremacy.
The Republican Party in Virginia is now taking us all back to the 19th Century.
They are all a bunch of bigots, anti christian, anti gay individuals. What a sad state of affairs.
Belated memo to this governor and the south:
YOU LOST! The war ended, you didn't win. Humanity moved froward and into the 21st century and you remain focused and firmly stuck in the 19th and fixated on this conflict it seems.
We cordially invite you to get over an attempt at bigoted treason and maintaining the ownership of other human beings and join us in modern times. We're close to discovering particles beyond the subatomic and if you stop dragging us down politically, we might get to real equal rights and scientific progress.
Come on, deal with it an join the rest of us in the modern world rather than clinging an old falacy of nobility.
Add this to the list of conservative idiotic hypocrisies. They rally around the Confederate flag and honor the "rebel" cause. Then when it suits them they call themselves the "Party Of Lincoln".
RE: 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.
James McPherson, dean of Civil War scholars commented: "I find it obnoxious.. [they] want to deny that Confederate history was ultimately bound up with slavery. But that was the principle reason for secession – that an anti-slavery party was elected to the White House.
Confederate month would be a good opportunity to reflect on the mistakes we made and the evilness of slavory. Understand that the confederates had many issues....but all other issues were overshadowed by slavory. Owning another human being is vile and sad and hopefully this month will remind us never to behave that way again. Hopefully it will help us to respect each other in a way inwhich we didn't at that time.
Slavery is reprehensible, evil and un christian. The world should be held accountable where-ever it exists. Africa for instance. By the way, the Civil war was not about slavery. Learn your history.
Abe Lincoln is spinning in his grave that a Republican is doing this.
If Virginia wants to honor it's Civil War, that's fine. The South honors it's dead from that war better than the North does. Most of the soldiers were poor (as usual) and did not even own slaves. Back then people viewed their state as their country before the United States.
But to honor the Confederacy, which was a government formed in TREASON to the US Constitution, that's wrong. And if the war was not about slavery, then why were blacks persecuted so violently for over 100 years after?
Just another cunning attempt to send the message that there are political powerbrokers who don't like the fact that an African American is the POTUS. Nothing more than a reminder to think of how things used to be during slavery days and by consequence, what in the hell is a "slave" doing living in the White House? Another son of Satan.
Wow! Is this a new republican reality TV series! Maybe it will be canceled by the November elections...LOL!
This guy is a complete idiot, republicans would be smart not to support people that make decisions like this. how in any way was this a good idea?
Just in time to coincide with a planned commemoration of Confederacy on the same date as Timothy McVeigh's terrorist bombing. McDonnell's AG Cuccinelli plans on addressing this shortsighted event, which is sure to promote even more misguided division from so-called "leaders." Sad.
I'm from Alabama and this is the history of America. I see nothing wrong with promoting civil war sights or having a month for it. The Civil War wasn't all about slavery and good people fought on both sides. Black people get to celebrate their history so why can't everyone else. If black people can look back on history is was their own people in Africa that sold each other not the "white man". Everything isn't always about you.....
virginia and new jersey.....going to the dumps....thanks to the ignorance of the voters in both states.....eat it up now....idiots...........even if in Virginia they were told....READ THE THESIS, and as for the obese one in new jersey, he keeps getting fatter on your tax dollars.......very smart, NOT
Well said "Annoyed".
Politically – I think Gov McDonnell just lost. He won the election back in November by capturing 2 out of 3 votes from "Independent Voters". What do you think they are thinking right about now after this decision and many other that he has made that are extreme political-Right decisions. I think his approval rating is coming down and then staying down for the rest of his term...
Just another Republican idiot, why am I not surprised! Shame on you Mr. McDonnell.
States rights was the main issue. The slavery issue was just one part of the total conflict. If we Americans want to celebrate this as part of our American history, we should have the same rights as any other race or group in history celebrating their heritage. Anyone regardless of race or group affiliation should have the same right to be part of any group they want regardless of color or race origin also. Many people of color also fought on both sides of the civil war. Many of the slaves elected to stay as free slaves and didn't run off to a Union states, where many found were not welcome and were free but in hard times also . That is part or the American way having the freedom to seek out, join or support groups of our choice.. as long we do it within the current law. Freedom is not Free... Just ask a Veteran or their Family.