The Phoenix Flyer

A day to celebrate? Confederate Memorial Day is still on the books in FL

By: - April 25, 2022 4:01 pm
DK photo feature

Left: Sanibel Island, Fl, 1956. Credit to the State Archives of Florida. Right: Confederate Battle Flag. Credit to the Florida Department of State.

In the 2022 legislative session, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book filed legislation to get rid of the Confederate-related legal holidays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, as well as the Confederate Memorial Day in Florida on April 26, among other changes.

But the legislation went nowhere.

And as of Tuesday, April 26, 2022, the Confederate Memorial Day remains in the state statutes of Florida.

“While several Southern states have respectfully moved away from observing Confederate Memorial Day, Alabama and Mississippi will continue the tradition today. On Tuesday, April 26, Florida will also celebrate Confederate Memorial Day,” according to a Monday press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Even though Georgia rebranded the day as a ‘state holiday,’ Stone Mountain Park is keeping the Confederacy alive by allowing white nationalists to commemorate the legacy of slavery on public land.”

Lecia Brooks, SPLC’s chief of staff and culture, also noted in a statement that: “In 2021, 73 Confederate memorials were removed from public spaces. Seven of those removals happened in Florida – including six school renamings – thanks to the efforts of Jacksonville activists. The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville now looks to hold the mayor accountable for his 2020 promise to remove all symbols of the Confederacy from the city, starting with the statue in Springfield Park.”

Brooks continued: “While some heritage groups and states consistently use this month to honor those who fought to preserve slavery, Americans across the country are taking action by rejecting revisionist history and removing Confederate memorials in all their inhumane forms.”

It wasn’t the first time Sen. Book, of Broward County, tried to eliminate Confederate holidays.

“As a State, we must underscore diversity and undercut tributes to Confederacy, which upheld the institution of slavery,” Book said in a 2021 statement. “With the hate and divisiveness we’re seeing today, it is more important than ever to condemn racism and reaffirm that we are indeed ‘one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all – not just for some.’”

Also during the 2022 session, State Sen. Randolph Bracy of Orlando pushed a measure to designate Juneteenth Day as a legal holiday, and a paid holiday, for employees of all branches and agencies of state government “to further commemorate the announcement of the abolition of slavery and to recognize the significant contributions of African Americans to this state and our nation,” according to the bill language.

That legislation also didn’t get traction.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden in June of 2021 signed into law legislation declaring a legal public holiday annually on June 19, the date of the end of slavery in the U.S. known as Juneteenth.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.