UPDATE: City Council has pushed their final decision to March 2. Stay tuned.

I think it is safe to say that later this evening the Charlottesville (Va) city council will vote to end the practice of recognizing Lee-Jackson Day. The vote will place Charlottesville in the same camp as Richmond, Fairfax, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Lynchburg and Norfolk, which no longer observe the holiday.

It would be more accurate to say that the city council will make official what is already the case in practice. As a resident of Charlottesville for eleven years before moving to Boston in 2011 I can say with confidence that very few people formally acknowledged the holiday. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any formal recognition of the holiday throughout the state beyond the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage groups. They will and should continue to honor Lee and Jackson in a way that they deem fitting.

The story will make the local newspaper tomorrow, but that will be it. Apart from a few people in and around town no one will take notice. The Virginia Flaggers may make good on their threat to raise a Confederate flag in town, but to the discerning viewer that will only highlight the inevitable retreat of Confederate symbols in public places around the Commonwealth and beyond.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the Charlottesville of 2015 is not the Charlottesville of 1914. The political and racial hierarchy that governed the city and the state throughout much of the twentieth century, and which is largely responsible for populating its physical landscapes with monuments and its calendars with holidays, survives no longer.

A balance that preserves reminders of Charlottesville’s Confederate past with the inevitable and necessary calls for new representations of the community’s collective values is possible, but it is going to take the right people on both sides to engage one another in meaningful dialog. The vote to end Lee-Jackson Day will likely be an easy one for council members to make given their constituency, but my hope is that a city like Charlottesville can have more open discussion about the future of its past.

9 comments add yours

  1. “In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any formal recognition of the holiday throughout the state beyond the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other heritage groups.”

    Tell that to all the state employees who get Lee / Jackson day off with pay !
    So does the State Formally recognize the holiday or not ?

    • Tell that to all the state employees who get Lee / Jackson day off with pay !

      Thanks for making my point for me. It’s just a day off w/pay – nothing more. By formal, I was referring to a ceremony that actually honored (or even recognized) Lee and Jackson.

    • At one time it did.

      Now at this point I can only pray that the Council votes to keep this.

      Now you can’t pay your respects to General Lee at the school he put so much of his time and effort into to save it from being shut down.

      The Lee-Jackson day holiday is being banned throughout the state along with other holidays honoring these Virginians.

      Next thing they’ll want is to pull up the monuments on monument Ave in Richmond.

      These things never really end with one vote or decision it’ll keep going.

      • Now you can’t pay your respects to General Lee at the school he put so much of his time and effort into to save it from being shut down.

        Of course you can.

        Next thing they’ll want is to pull up the monuments on monument Ave in Richmond.

        There is no reason to believe that the monuments will be removed. Stop with the hysterics. You, Mr. Tatum and others are free to celebrate Lee and Jackson in any way you choose.

        • Right. There are any number of ways that Lee and Jackson can be honored/remembered by the people that care to do so. What they can no longer expect is that such commemorations be supported by local/state government and other institutions.

          • The public celebration of any person, event, or date has to be relevant to the people celebrating it. When the reason for the celebration is no longer relevant to the people what is really being celebrated? You can insert the word commemorated in place of celebrated if you want to.

            This can apply to any holiday in the US as well as many things that were celebrated over the span of human history. Why is something the subject of a holiday? This is sort of like the Emperor’s New Clothes isn’t it? What happens when people start asking questions about the cause of the commemoration? That is what happened in the 1960s through today. The answers are not always desired by people, but they are the answers.

        • It’s up to the citizens of Charlottesville to answer that question, and act through their elected representatives on city council. Because, um, that’s how local governance works.

          If the people in Charlottesville in 2015 don’t feel that Lee and Jackson are especially relevant to them, or particularly meritorious, then that represents a failure of heritage folks to put their message across going back decades. No amount of last-minute shrieking about black people on welfare buying sneakers by the Virginia Flaggers is likely to change that.

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