A Texas county extended its annual commemoration of Confederate history to the entire month of April — but only after condemning slavery, the essential element to the Civil War and the Confederacy’s enduring, shameful legacy.
Officials in Brazos County, which has celebrated its Confederate Memorial Day once a year for more than a century, voted this week to proclaim April as “Confederate History and Heritage Month,” as they have each of the past seven years.
But this year county commissioners say they ran the proclamation past the board’s only black member for review and acknowledged slavery as “one of the causes of the war, and was ended by the war and is therefore condemned.”
County Judge Duane Peters said many residents of the county fought in the Civil War — including many that he knew of for the South and “probably” some for the North.
“Slavery was certainly a bad reason to fight a war over, but that wasn’t the only reason — and we condemn slavery in the resolution,” Peters said.
The county judge said the proclamation was carefully vetted by Irma Cauley, the commission’s lone black elected official — but she was out of town when the vote was taken.
“This really to me wasn’t about a black, white issue,” Peters said. “It’s honoring our ancestors who may have fought for the Confederate side, but there were other reasons than slavery that people fought for.”
He cited tariffs and state’s rights as those other contributing factors, although he did not specify which rights states believed had been infringed by the federal government.
A member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, which asks counties across the South to celebrate the Confederacy for entire months of the year, echoed Peters by arguing that the Civil War was fought over export taxes on cotton.
That group member, Marshall Davis, said critics of Confederate symbols had bowed to political correctness and were too concerned about hurting others’ feelings.
The group will hold a Civil War re-enactment over the next several days in Brazos County, and one participant said that was an important reminder of the past.
“It is part of history,” said Bill Boyd, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member whose great-great grandfather fought for the Confederacy. “You can’t rewrite history no matter how much you may dislike it.”
“Our intention is to honor the Confederate warrior, and there were Confederate warriors of almost every race,” added Boyd, who is white. “There were Indians, there were Hispanics, there were blacks, there were whites, there were Jews. There were the whole rainbow of the southern culture that fought for a cause they believed in, and so we want to honor their service — no more, no less.”
But some experts dismissed their interpretation of history and mocked the logic behind the celebration.
“They are honoring the soldiers for fighting for slavery — but they condemn slavery,” said Ed Dorn, public affairs professor at the University of Texas. “That, to put it mildly, is contradictory. It’s hard to honor someone for a cause that you think is morally abhorrent.”
Dorn compared said it made no more sense to honor Confederate soldiers for their selfless bravery than a suicide bomber — but he saved his most caustic criticism for the proclamation’s concluding statement, which thanks Confederate veterans who sacrificed so “future generations might live free and prosper.”
“I’ll attach Donald Trump’s favorite word to that statement,” Dorn said. “It’s just stupid.”
Watch this video report posted online by KAGS-TV: