April 2010 was Confederate History Month in Virginia, proclaimed so by its Governor, Bob McDonnell. This month-long celebration was to lead these southern citizens to
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 ….
In this original proclamation Virginians were not urged to reflect on how slavery had contributed to the country’s descent into civil war. In fact Brandon Dorsey, of the Sons Of Confederate Veterans, successful lobbyist for this state action, felt that the civil rights issue of slavery gets too much attention when the Civil War is remembered. You can listen to his comments here, in Michael Martin’s NPR essay “When Slavery Overshadows Confederate History.” National attention and public outcry forced the Governor to concede that he had made a mistake, and the final proclamation contained the clause:
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history…
I attribute my current family research and study to the outrage this political episode provoked in me. I realized that I had the documents to interpret this history from a very personal place, and that by writing my family’s story I could contribute to a broader conversation about our country’s racial history. The comments to the article cited above are representative of the beliefs held by various groups and individuals, and many of them not accurately grounded. In taking The Civil War and Reconstruction Era course I am developing my arsenal of facts to counter misconceptions and promote rational discussion.
A discussion that is justifiably overshadowed by slavery.