State and local government offices across South Carolina closed Monday in observance of ‘Confederate Memorial Day’. According to the Associated Press, state officials chose to commemorate May 10th in order to honor the work of General Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Centuries before the Civil War, South Carolina was the country’s most active point of entry for enslaved peoples. More than 40 percent of African peoples kidnapped and transported during the brutal “middle passage” made their way through the state. The coastal city housed enormous jails, auction spaces and even torture chambers for African citizens forced into slavery.
Decision to celebrate treasonous men who upheld slavery re-opens deep wounds.
In April of 2015, video showed the brutal execution of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer. The officer shot Scott in the back multiple times while running in the opposite direction. Just two months later, a White supremacist murdered nine Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. That summer, a fierce debate ensued across the state, ending with the removal of the Confederate Flag from government buildings.
Also that year, activist Bree Newsome was arrested for climbing a flagpole and calmly removing the Confederate flag.
Most recently, the state legislature chose to reinstate the firing squad as a form of execution. Since 1985, nearly 40% percent of the people executed in the state have been Black men. Yet, they account for less than 15% of the state’s population.
The state’s decision to honor Confederate leaders who fought to uphold slavery comes amid attempts to stop education about systemic racism in America’s schools.
Republicans from Oklahoma to Florida are actively pushing legislation supported by white supremacist groups. Bills like HB 1775 in Oklahoma have sparked controversy for what many say is an attempt to further white-wash history. Actions by South Carolina and other states across the country have served as evidence for the need for intensive education of systemic racism in schools nationwide.