Confederate proclamation leaves bitter taste for some

Published 2:14 am Monday, April 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — As locals honored Confederate History Month with a ceremony this weekend, the governor’s proclamation for the month left some residents with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month, but he didn’t specifically mention slavery in the proclamation.

Natchez resident Della Jackson said she felt like Barbour was failing to understand black people.

“We as black folks feel like he should have mentioned it,” Jackson said. “He should make us feel like he is working for both sides.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans organized a memorial day ceremony Saturday. Locals marched from downtown to the Natchez City Cemetery. They were glad to take up Barbour’s charge to honor Southern heritage, Natchez resident Allen Terrell said.

Others, however, are upset Barbour’s proclamation ignored the issue of slavery, said Vergie Trask of Woodville.

“People should just tell the whole truth about everything, right or wrong, because it is history,” Trask said.

Overlooking the unnamed markers of confederate soldiers at the Natchez Cemetery, Terrell, commander of the Natchez Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said too many people try to judge the confederates based on modern sensibilities.

“No one would say now that slavery was a good institution,” Terrell said. “We are here to make sure their names are not muddied anymore.”

Trask said she didn’t hold any grudges and agrees that it is in the past, but she said she thought slavery was too big of an issue to sweep under the rug.

The Southern side of the story is usually only portrayed in a negative light, Terrell said, so he was glad Barbour issued the proclamation urging Sons of Confederate Veterans to speak about the positives of southern heritage.

Barbour was the second to issue a proclamation of Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s original document failed to do so, but he later revised it to denounce slavery as evil and inhumane.

“Barbour does not think slavery means a lot to the month,” Natchez resident Allen Perkins said. “If his forbearers had been enslaved, he would probably see it differently.”

Danny Hayes said he was born in the South and the confederacy is a proud part of his heritage.

“These gentlemen fought hard on our behalf,” Hayes said. “I believe we ought to come out and honor them.”

Terrell said they have a similar service every April to honor their ancestors by placing the confederate flag on graves of soldiers who gave their lives or helped rebuild after the war.

“We marched from Memorial Park and decorated the graves,” he said. “At the end of the month, we will come take up our flags.

“We aren’t in anyone’s face with it, our goal is just to make (young people) carry on and never forget.”

Kaycie Walters, 16, said she likes to discuss the confederacy with people in history class.

“I’m proud of my heritage,” Walters said. “I come to the cemetery every year to honor them.”