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Cville City Council Hears Input on Lee-Jackson Day

Posted: Updated: Feb 16, 2015 06:15 PM
Charlottesville City Council Charlottesville City Council
Statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville's Lee Park Statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville's Lee Park
Ben Jones Ben Jones
Kristin Szakos Kristin Szakos
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville City Council is considering a request to end the city's recognition of a state holiday that honors Confederate State Army Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

In January, two holidays fell at the beginning and end of one weekend. Charlottesville City Hall shut down for Lee – Jackson Day on Friday Jan. 16, and Monday Jan 19 marked the federal holiday for civil rights leader Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. State law recognizes the confederate generals and the civil rights fighter each for being a "defender of causes.” At least one city councilor calls the Lee-Jackson cause offensive.

During their meeting Monday, February 2, councilors heard input from the public on the state holiday.

"What I have a problem with is the overreach by those in power who feel like they have the right to change history," said John Hayden, speaking in favor of Lee-Jackson Day.

"Let that be history. But we don't have to glorify what they represented and what they wanted to do," said Raymond Mason speaking against the holiday.

A total of 21 people gave their opinion to city council; Ten people wanted to keep the holiday as it is, while 11 said they are against it. Mayor Huja reminded the crowd several times to show respect to speakers no matter which side of the issue they supported.

"I'm just sick of liberals always babying black people. If they act like babies, they will stay like babies until you make them grow up. Make them grow up," said Karen Kupa, a Richmond resident who spoke in favor of keeping the holiday.

"There is a great deal of history that comes with the Jackson - Lee holiday. We're aware of that. However there is a great deal of disdain," said Wes Bellamy.

City Councilor Kristin Szakos pointed out during the meeting that neither general fought in Charlottesville, and that it unlikely that they even visited the city.

Szakos requested Charlottesville end observation of Lee-Jackson Day. She said some people view the day as offensive for celebrating the Confederacy. “Had their army won, we would have continued to have slavery in Virginia. And, I think that's not something a lot of people here in Virginia want to celebrate,” she stated.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans strongly opposes ending Lee-Jackson Day in Charlottesville. The organization's heritage chief and "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV star Ben Jones sent an email to all city councilors calling the request "narrow-minded" and "divisive". Jones and the Sons of Confederate Veterans are rallying the troops to stop Charlottesville from eliminating the holiday they see as recognizing a shared heritage.

“There are 70 million of us who are descended from the Confederacy…to sort of erase our history, our personal and family and American history, is an absurdity,” Jones stated.

“It's certainly not revisionism. History is important and we need to remember from it. Remembering it is not the same as celebrating it. In this case, I think we're talking about ending the celebration of Lee-Jackson Day in Charlottesville,” said Szakos.

“You don't see a lot of visible local celebrations of it, unlike MLK Day, which clearly has taken on a community significance,” said Vice Mayor Dede Smith.

But, Jones sees significance in Lee-Jackson Day. “It's family, three of my four great-grandfathers fought for the south, for the Confederacy.”

Szakos wants council to turn the Lee-Jackson paid holiday back over to staff and ask what day they'd like to replace it with. Current replacement ideas include the day after Christmas, the day before Thanksgiving, or Veterans Day.

During Monday's meeting, city council emphasized the decision on the holiday has no impact on the statue of General Lee that is in Charlottesville's Lee Park.

Council will vote on the issue on February 17.

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