Mississippi governor declares Confederate Heritage Month

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has declared April as Confederate Heritage Month.

The first-year governor is following the practice of several of his Democratic and Republican predecessors, and his action is drawing criticism from the state’s only African American congressman.

“Unnecessary,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson wrote Monday on Twitter.

The Mississippi chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans recently posted Reeves’s declaration on its Facebook page.

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“God bless the Confederate Soldier. Many of whom are buried in unmarked and unknown mass graves throughout the South,” the group said in the post. “May he, or his sacrifices, never be forgotten.”

Reeves’s declaration is not dated, so it was not immediately clear whether he signed it before late March, when the governor started spending much of his time on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The declaration does not mention slavery as the central issue in the Civil War. It says that “as we honor all who lost their lives in this war, it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us.”

Mississippi is the last state with a flag that prominently features the Confederate battle emblem. The state has used the same flag since 1894, and people who voted in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep the emblem. Reeves has said that if Mississippi wants to consider changing the flag, that should only be done by another statewide referendum.

Critics say declarations, flags and monuments to the Confederacy and the Civil War give undue attention to a racist past. But supporters say those are a reminder of history.

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