Alabama ceremony marks anniversary of Davis inauguration
By Matt Okarmus, Montgomery (Ala.)
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It may be 2011, but it might well have been 1861 in Montgomery on Saturday as hundreds of people marched to the state Capitol to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the swearing-in of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Men, women and children dressed in Civil War-era attire flocked to the Capitol to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Davis' inauguration. The event included speeches, the firing of cannons and a re-enactment of the inauguration.
Davis was sworn in Feb. 18, 1861, as president of the Confederate States of America. He was elected to lead the Southern states after secession from the union.
As the people who portrayed Davis and his vice president walked up to the Capitol, a cry of "God bless you, Mr. President!" was heard from the crowd. It would set the tone for the afternoon, as several more loud cries could be heard from those in attendance.
The biggest cheers came after speakers noted that they were there to celebrate the birth of the Confederacy, which they said was based on a government for the people and by the people. One speaker also got the crowd going with a yell of "Long live Dixie!"
"We tried to recreate it as close as we could. We wanted to give people a glimpse into history," said Charles Rand, adjutant in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Rand said his ancestors include Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans, and events like Saturday's are meant to praise them and what they stood for.
"For me, I celebrate the right of our ancestors to have a government of our own choosing," Rand said.
The reasons for the Civil War have been widely debated, and controversy surrounded Saturday's event because of the war's connection to slavery. Kelley Barrow, lieutenant commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, seemed to address those who criticized the celebration in his speech.
Barrow mentioned civil rights hero Rosa Parks, stating that while she moved from the back of the bus to the front, the "people of the Confederacy have been forced to the back of the bus."
Chuck McMichael, a past commander in chief, said the celebration of the Confederacy is a personal issue to him. He compared it to the celebrations of Independence Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
McMichael ended his speech by holding up one of the many flags of the Confederacy that were on display.
"As long as there blows a Southern breeze, this flag will fly in it," McMichael said.
Lee Beasley was in town from Tuscaloosa with her husband and son when they saw the people in costume and wanted to know what was going on. After the celebration drew to a close, her son was asked to help fold a flag.
"He was careful not to let it touch the ground," Beasley said with a smile.