(June 4) A move is afoot to repeal the law establishing an Alabama state holiday in honor of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. Good. The holiday is woefully misguided.

State Rep. Chris England, the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, has written to Gov. Kay Ivey to ask her to include the proposed repeal as part of the agenda for a “special session” of the Legislature expected later this summer. England cited a series of Davis’ statements that are highly and justifiably offensive to modern ears, such as that “you cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”

England wrote that “Davis’ enduring legacy in Alabama is one of pain and division for Alabamians of all races, and includes the deaths of many white Alabamians who served as soldiers and sailors during the Civil War – some of whom disagreed with Davis’ position on slavery.”

This should not be a close call. Not even the usual arguments, whether valid or not, apply. These aren’t statues that are arguably “public art” historically rooted in a particular location. These aren’t crosses memorializing ordinary soldiers who died following orders. This isn’t about Robert E. Lee, whose legacy engenders debate because it includes serious attempts to heal post-war animosities while honoring the humanity of newly black citizens. And it’s not about a native of the state who did tremendous public works, such as what Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard did in his native New Orleans.

This is about a state holiday honoring a nonnative who enthusiastically led a cause that he himself said was inextricably and intentionally linked with human bondage. No amount of sophistry can make a good case that all Alabamians should celebrate a holiday in Davis’ honor. …

[The full column is here.]


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