Bob McDonnell: The Klan’s governor

Gov. Bob McDonnell, playing to his mostly-white, Conservative base, restored Confederate History Month to Virginia’s Hall of Shame recently, reversing an eight-year trend of relegating the history of the ill-fated Confederacy to its well-deserved place in the dustbin of historical mistakes.

For some, dedicating a month to remembering the Confederacy is akin to declaring a National Holocaust Month.  It’s a slap in the face to any Virginian who believes we should learn from history and not honor its mistakes.

Confederate History Month was established in 1997 by well-known racist George Allen when he served as governor. Allen’s successor, James Gilmoree III, put some anti-slavery language into the proclamation but McDonnell took it out.  Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine scrapped the month altogether.

The circle of shame from last year’s election is complete: A racist governor and his homophobic attorney general. What’s next: A state holiday honoring the Klan?

Those who defend the outmoded concept of a Confederate History Month usually trot out the tired argument that the Civil War was not about slavery but was more about states’ rights. Yeah, it was about a state’s right to enslave people — nothing more, nothing less.

McDonnell’s latest move is just another regressive step by an administration in Richmond determined to drag the Commonwealth back into the stone age.

McDonnell, Attorney Gen. Ken Cucinelli and others in the party in power are troglodytes — throwbacks to a shameful time when whites lynched blacks and a favorite Virginia past time was night sticking the colored folk.

McDonnell claims his actions will be “good for tourism.” Yeah, right: If you want Virginia to become a popular destination for white supremacists, bigots and racists.

Sadly, it comes at a time when another national disgrace is brewing at the federal level with Arlington National Cemetery.

Reports Salon:

Almost 20 years ago Congress ordered Arlington National Cemetery to preserve history, after one of the oldest parts of the burial grounds had fallen into disrepair. That forlorn group of several thousand graves, called Section 27, holds the remains of thousands of Civil War troops, including African-Americans who served with the U.S. Colored Troops, as well as thousands of freed slaves.

But when then-congressman and African-American history buff Louis Stokes began to visit there around 1990, he found headstones there were falling apart and overgrown with weeds. Prodded by Stokes, in 1992 Congress ordered Arlington to replace the crumbling headstones and organize and preserve the historical burial records for Section 27 so vital history about those buried there would not be lost forever.

Superintendent John Metzler told Congress the cemetery was on the case. Arlington replaced the old, crumbling headstones in that section with new, shiny white marble markers. The cemetery also told Congress that burial records for the area got straightened up and preserved. (Metzler is still the superintendent at Arlington).

A Salon investigation shows that 17 years after Metzler’s commitment, the cemetery’s cosmetic fixes did little to preserve the history of the dead there, and instead appear to have made matters worse. Salon obtained thousands of internal cemetery burial records for that section, along with the cemetery’s own internal grave-by-grave map of the section completed in 1990 just before the cemetery’s overhaul began, as well as copies of the old, handwritten burial register of the former slaves interred there back in the mid-1800s. Salon discovered that an unknown number of those new, perfect-looking headstones in the historical section have the wrong names on them or are wrongly marked “Unknown.” And at least 500 graves, listed as occupied in the cemetery’s own records, stand unmarked today.

UPDATE (6:07 P.M.): Gov. Bob McDonnell today apologized for omitting any mention of slavery from his proclamation on Confederate History Month.  In a prepared statement, McDonnell said (in part):

The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed. The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation. In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly approved a formal statement of “profound regret” for the Commonwealth’s history of slavery, which was the right thing to do.

McDonnell did not withdraw the proclamation but added the following to it:

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history…..

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39 COMMENTS

  1. Doug,

    I continue to question the motives of Gov. McSogynist and our homophobic AG. Having Kentucky roots, I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War…one, a Union soldier that found himself in action near Saltville, VA and another who rode with John Hunt Morgran’s raiders, wreaking havoc on Union supply lines in Ohio and such. I have a rich appreciation for history and heritage and support the preservation of historic battlefields, museums, and such.

    That being said, I find this action totally unnecessary. And the excuses for it…tourism and history…could we be more disingenuous?! It is divisive and short-sighted, to say the very least. To officially endorse Confederate History Month is to embrace our state’s segregated past and revel in our past mistakes. What’s next…Massive Resistance month complete with the unveiling of a statue of racist Governor/Senator Harry F. Byrd? Or should we build a shrine, perhaps a golden tobacco leaf, to celebrate the fact that Virginia tobacco products have killed more people than were lost on both sides of the Civil War?

    In a state that claims the title of “The Mother of Presidents,” can’t we get better candidates than this?!

  2. History isn’t a bad thing, much can be learned from looking back at past mistakes. I suspect that one of the main reasons Democrats that don’t like this is because they do not like their history of racism exposed. Doug, I’m sure you already know this but the Republican party freed the slaves and voted for civil rights in larger numbers than the Democrats did. I don’t think its wrong in looking back, we need to learn from our history. I guess you could argue there are better ways to do it or better names to name it. If there was a National Holocaust Month couldn’t that be used as a way to both educate and honor those who suffered and those who fought to free them. I don’t see why Confederate History Month couldn’t be used to celebrate those who fought and those who finally found freedom.

    • Sorry shortpants, you didn’t pay close enough attention in history class.

      Those racist dixiecrats walked straight out of the Democratic party into the waiting arms of the Republican Party when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. It was a unfulfilled goal of President Kennedy. Democrats granting Negroes voting rights and ending segregation was too much for the racists. So they followed Strom Thurmond into the Republican Party. Just to make sure that these racists felt at home with him, Ronald Reagan chose to announce his presidential campaign from Neshoba County, Mississippi – an obscure backwater and location of the murder of 3 civil rights workers in 1964. Racism and racial fear have been the recruiting tools of the modern Republican Party.

      • Short pants, that a good one. I never said there were no racists in the Republican party. My point was that the Democrat Party was packed with them for many many years. Everything I said was fact, the Republicans freed the slaves and voted in higher numbers for civil rights.

        • The Democratic partyhad a racist faction until approximately the mid-20th century. They were, unfortunately, Southern Democrats (sorry, but true). Then they switched to the Republican party. I do think that most Southerners are not racist — or at least not any where near as racist as perceived by non-Southerners. But what I have stated above is, in fact, historically correct. Racist Southern Democrats continued to register as Democrats for 100 years because Lincoln was a Republican.

          • I know people in Floyd today who will not vote Republican because of Lincoln and yes many of them are racist. And yes, there are racist Republicans also, I’m not saying that either.

    • Lauren:

      Sorry, but I can’t agree. Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation against the wishes of his own party leaders. If McDonnell is such an enlightened Republican, why did he strip out the anti-slavery message that former Gov. Gilmore inserted into the proclamation for Confederate History Month. And why do we have a Confederate History Month anyway? We don’t have an American Revolution History Month and that war was a whole lot more important to the history of this nation.

      • Doug, I’m not trying to necessarily defend the Governors actions, I am simply saying there is much to learn from history. The south was right about states rights, they are being walked on by the Feds. What they were wrong about was that even states don’t have the right to enslave their own citizens. Looking back we see how wrong they were, my point is simply to say that we can learn much by our history. The question should be, how are we abusing the citizens rights today? How will future generations look back at our actions. The two biggest things that jump out at me is the Rights attack on gay rights and the deficit spending by the Left.

  3. Dear Ms. Yoder,

    How many times does Doug have to say he’s neither Dem or Rep? This is not a party issue, it’s a human one and, as Doug so succinctly put it, the governor is dragging us back to the stoneage. A month to celebrate what is probably the biggest mistake in American History? Please. Interestingly, BM didn’t like Obama’s mandated health insurance but when asked whether or not citizens were polled re: Confederate History Month he replied, “No, I mandated it.” Funny how that works.

    • I agree to a point, there is really no need to have Confederate History Month. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look back on that time in history. There is much to learn from that period and we should not be afraid of it.

  4. “Those who defend the outmoded concept of a Confederate History Month usually trot out the tired argument that the Civil War was not about slavery but was more about states’ rights. Yeah, it was about a state’s right to enslave people — nothing more, nothing less.”

    Well said.

  5. Hmmm, a government mandated “celebration” of Confederate History sounds a lot like socialism to me. And, as if the state isn’t hateful enough, we now have a reason to import more like minded haters in the name of tourism. I guess we black folk will be relegated to keeping a very low profile while the state celebrates its failed effort to uphold slavery.

  6. My great-great grandfather served for the Confederacy as a ranger in the Civil War and was killed near Cold Harbor. If he were alive today —– he would probably be scratching on his coffin and screaming for air. But seriously, if I had a time machine I would go back, tell him the cause he was fighting for was unjust and try to convince him to stay on the farm and take care of his family. Then I would go to the early 1980’s and invest some money in Microsoft.

    I don’t fully understand the infatuation many people (especially southerners) have with the Civil War, but a quick glance at the Barnes and Noble history section is all one needs to see that it exists. Tony Horowitz tries to explain it in his book “Confederates in the Attic”. It is an entertaining read, but I still don’t understand why some grown men voluntarily put on wool clothes and pretend to battle each other. I agree that the Revolutionary War was the most important war the U.S. ever fought, but I am probably in the minority.

  7. Let’s get this straight, right here and now. Southerners became Democrats after the Civil War because they abhorred the idea of joining the political party of Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) — the President who freed the slaves. They are NOT the Democrats of the last 40+ years!

    At the same time, I can understand the sentimental feeling that many Southerners (white Southerners) have for their ancestral history. It is normal to want to honor one’s ancestors…they are kin and many fought with the best intentions, that had nothing to do with slavery.

    Is there any way to acknowledge and appreciate Southern history, while also acklowledging the cruel njustice of slavery? I do think so, but not by the Governor’s mandate of a Confedrate history month.

  8. To Michelle: How do you equate Confederate History Month, mandated by a very conservative Republican governor, with “socialism”? Your reasoning eludes me. Please explain,

    • I’m guessing Michele’s socialism comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek given the Republicans’ rhetoric on the subject. It seems that anything the Democrats mandate is perceived as socialism.

  9. Lauren: True, but pre-Civil War Southern Democrats AND post-Civil War Southern Democrats were not of the same political persuasion as Democrats of the past 40+ years– or more, for that matter….at least as far back as the depression era FDR.

    The reason that so many conservative Southerners continued to register as Democrats for 100 years after the Civil War was because Lincoln was a Republican.

  10. Deficit spending by the left?! Clinton got the country’s finances in the black. George W. Bush put the country’s deficit seriously, drastically in the red.

    • Don’t put words in my mouth, Bush did put this countries finances in the red and I never agreed with that. However, I was speaking about what I see happening today, and today the deficit spending is being done by the left. The Democrats have the President, and both houses. They have the power to control the budget and they refuse. Raise taxes or stop spending, but stop spending money we don’t have.

      • You didn’t recognize the folly of a $2 trillion Iraqi war paid with credit, the risk of a deregulated banking business, Detroit selling gas-guzzlers with a federal tax deduction, or Bush’s massive tax cuts (with no cut in spending). Why would anyone believe you have a clue as to what it will take to stem economic collapse and repair the damage?

        • Where did I ever say I agreed with any of that? It is a outright lie to say I supported overspending under the Bush administration.

  11. No, it’s not actually “socialist” because I am not being forced to put on my chains and my scratchy burlap shirt and skirt and participate. However, given our current political climate, if the tables were turned McDonnell would be calling for the repeal of this “celebration” that has been forced on the state and Cucinelli would be looking for someone to sue.

  12. “Bob McDonnell, playing to his mostly-white, Conservative base, restored Confederate History Month to Virginia’s Hall of Shame recently”

    So by any chance would this mostly-white, Conservative base happen to be the democratic majority of Virginia? Funny how people whine about decisions made in a democracy and then scramble to blame the elected leaders. Sounds like some people are sore losers. Is there not a Black History month? Is not true that most nations, including the highly revered Greeks, practiced slavery at some point in their history? Aren’t we mature enough to acknowledge our past sins without having to hide them? Apparently we aren’t mature enough to look beyond partisan politics.

    • I don’t remember McDonnell running for election on a platform of restoring Confederate History Month, but I may have just missed that. Did he even mention it? Were there voters insisting that he bring it back? I believe that Doug is correct in his assertion that McDonnell is pandering to his party’s base on this one. I really don’t think that issue was at the top of most voters minds.

      I’m not sure how Black History Month, a month devoted to celebrating the positive contributions that African Americans have made to this country, has to do with that. Why the mention? Blacks have a holiday to show off their best and brightest and we need one to remind them how much we don’t like them? And yes, many nations have practiced slavery at some point in their history but that doesn’t make the institution right. Or one to celebrate.

      Are we mature enough to acknowlege our past sins? I think McDonnell makes a positive step in that direction when, in his amendment to the proclomation, he asserts that “the institution of slavery led to this war.” Many people are reticent to make a direct link between slavery and the Civil War.

      Do we need Confederate History Month to acknowledge those sins? Do we need to celebrate those who participated on the wrong side of history? I think not.

  13. I find it mildly disappointing that people automatically put racism and slavery in the same mix as the Confederacy, but to each their own.

    I didnt see anyone bitch last month when it was Nazi history month……I guess the SS were a better class of person than the Confederacy.

    • I believe that Mr. Kaylor is referring to Gov McDonnell declaring that “May” be Nazi History Month.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-g-miller/va-governor-declares-may_b_529751.html

      The above is a article about it. And I DO in fact see Mr. Kaylor’s point here. And he can feel free to correct me if I am wrong. No one is saying anything about Nazi History Month, Black History Month (which has been in play for a long time), but a stink is raised over Confederate History Month. I am interested to know if there is a difference between the two.

      • Its called Sattire Bob, please look into it.

        The fact that a late, somewhat unknown April Fools joke is brought into the light now because of people complaining about this matter is even more hilarious to me.

        But in reality, I am upset about last month was Government Purchasing month, I feel they are biased because they use tax dollars to buy stuff.

        See how stupid it sounds? swap out the month label and reasoning and it sounds just as ridiculous as someone being mad about a history remembrance period being proclaimed by the Commonwealth just cause they dont agree with it.

        http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/ if you would like to find some other proclamations that will offend or make people mad.

      • Monica dear, that isn’t an “article,” it was a spoof, a joke by blogger Peter Miller that went right over your little head. Again, there never was a “Nazi History Month”.

        America hosts a Black History Month every year in a vain attempt to help folks like you see the many contributions that African Americans have made to the United States of America. Other than assuring the destruction of the South and 100 years of grinding poverty for everyone, black and white, I see no contribution from the Confederacy. None.

        • Bob, one day you will realize there were many contributions from the Confederacy and the war in general. Unfortunately, it seems that you are stuck in your mindset and nothing I can say will change that.

          I can, however, offer a definition for the way you are treating this subject:

          big·ot
             /ˈbɪgət/ Show Spelled[big-uht] Show IPA
          –noun
          a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

        • My bad on the “article”. That’s what happens when I get in a hurry or waste my time commenting to your nonsense. I have no problem what so ever with Black History Month. Many African Americans have made great contributions to this country. And Mr. Kaylor has said it better than I ever could about the contributions that the Confederacy had made and what your concept to others opinions is.

Comments are closed.