On Tuesday, Mayor Bobby Ralph refused to sign the proclamation – essentially the same one that he did sign last year after changing a couple of sentences to refer to “these brave soldiers of southeastern Virginia of all races and religions.”
This year, Ralph said, when contacted by phone, the issue is simply too divisive.
“The city was promoting its Civil War Weekend last year, and I thought it was the right thing to do,” Ralph said. “But the level of anxiety has increased substantially over the last year. I’ve never gotten as many phone calls as I’ve gotten in the last 10 days.”
Whether the SCV recognizes it or not, recent challenges to public history fit neatly into a broader historical context. At the turn of the twentieth century white Southerners enjoyed a monopoly over public offices and were able to craft their preferred history. Now with a more racially inclusive local leadership and populace that memory is changing. Get used to it.