Confederate leader's oath to be recreated in Ala.
By PHILLIP RAWLS
Dec. 22, 2010
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Hundreds of Civil War re-enactors will parade up Montgomery's main street to the state Capitol on Feb. 19 to recreate the swearing-in of Confederate President Jefferson Davis 150 years ago.
African-American leaders might protest nearby with a message that the Confederacy should be remembered with shame for trying to keep blacks enslaved rather than with celebration.
Organizers say they are not trying to create controversy.
"We are trying to present a historical account of what happened 150 years ago," said Thomas Strain Jr. of Tanner, a member of the national board of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The national SCV is organizing the event, with more than 700 people already signed up to participate in the parade. Strain said it will look like the militia units and private citizens who marched up Dexter Avenue on Feb. 18, 1861, to see Davis take the oath of office at the top of the state Capitol steps. Several thousand people, including descendants of Davis, are expected to watch the parade and swearing-in ceremony.
Organizers will then fast-forward a month to recreate the raising of the first Confederate flag at the Capitol. But it will be done on a flagpole near the Capitol rather than using the main pole on the dome. In 1993, black legislators won a lawsuit that ended Alabama's practice of flying the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol dome, and the SCV isn't trying to buck that court ruling.
"I'd love to see it up there, but that's not going to happen," Strain said.
Alabama's longest-serving black legislator, Democrat Alvin Holmes of Montgomery, was one of the lawmakers who won that lawsuit. Holmes said he plans to work with civil rights groups to organize a protest, much like occurred Monday night when a "Secession Ball" was held in Charleston, S.C. Members of the NAACP marched and held a vigil and one leader called that celebration "disgusting."
"The Confederacy was to maintain the institution of slavery," he said. "People can argue it was about states' rights, but the states' rights was to maintain slavery. They wanted slaves and they didn't want the federal government to get involved."
Various events are being planned to mark the Civil War Sesquicentennial, from those under the auspices of the National Park Service and states to privately organized events such as the swearing-in recreation in Alabama. Nearly 2 percent of the nation's population, more than 600,000 people, died in the Civil War.
Robert Reames of Birmingham, state commander for the SCV, prefers to call the Civil War "the War Between the States." He said the re-enactment Feb. 19 will have a simple message: "That our ancestors did what they did in a honorable fashion and we're here to remember that honor."
Holmes, a retired college history teacher, said groups such as the SCV present a glamorous view of the war and don't talk about how it left the South economically depressed for decades.
"It wasn't great. It was shameful," he said.