LEE–JACKSON DAY, that awkward Virginia holiday that recognizes Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, will itself soon become history now that both General Assembly chambers have passed bills to do away with it.
The number of state holidays will remain the same because the bills make Election Day a state holiday, which for some Virginians will make getting to the polls a little bit easier.
The legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam, who has supported it. We look forward to him signing it.
Virginia and other Southern states are in the difficult, deliberate and controversial process of cutting their public ties to their secessionist past. There is no denying the critical role the Confederacy played in U.S. history, but it is time we stopped “celebrating” it with a state holiday. It is time we stop alienating a segment of our population with a show of pride in two men who led the fight to protect the institution of slavery.
As House Speaker Eileen Filler–Corn remarked about the legislation during a prayer breakfast for Martin Luther King Jr., Lee and Jackson “stood against everything we here in this room represent.”
What is curious and disconcerting about the lawmakers’ action on the legislation is near party line votes that took place in both chambers. In what way is this a partisan issue? In each chamber, only one Republican joined the Democrats in support of the measures. In the House, Del. Matt Fariss, R–Albemarle, crossed over, and in the Senate, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R–Henrico, voted in favor, but then went on record as having mistakenly pushed the wrong button.
That means Democratic Del. Joshua Cole, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Sen. Scott Surovell were the only legislators in the Fredericksburg area who voted to end Lee–Jackson Day. Fredericksburg is among the Virginia localities that have officially chosen to no longer observe it.
Given that four of the 10 deadliest Civil War battles were fought in the immediate Fredericksburg area, it seems just that the overall impact of the war—the loss of every life—is recognized here. We memorialize the sacrifices of both sides on Memorial Day, the day the nation remembers all of its war dead.
But the end of Lee–Jackson Day is long overdue.