(The Center Square) – A Louisiana lawmaker wants to eliminate the state’s two Confederate holidays.
State Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, has prefiled House Bill 248 ahead of the upcoming legislative session to remove two days from Louisiana’s list of legal holidays: Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day.
Louisiana recognizes Robert E. Lee Day on Jan. 19, the day he was born in 1807. Lee was best known as the commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.
Florida and Tennessee are the only states that also celebrate Lee’s actual birthday, while Alabama and Mississippi celebrate Lee’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on the same day; the third Monday of January, WLOX-TV reported.
Louisiana’s Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated June 3, the same date as Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis’ birthday. The intent is to remember the more than quarter-million Confederate soldiers who died fighting against the Union.
HB 248 follows many others in states across the south in recent years aimed at eliminating state holidays or monuments in honor of the Confederacy, which opponents regard as racist.
The shift has coincided with efforts to promote Juneteenth – a day celebrating June 19, 1865, when Mjr. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, bringing news of the end of the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation that had freed slaves two years earlier.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 554 last year to designate the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth Day. Beginning this year, all state offices will close the Friday before that Saturday in observance.
“This is an important part of American history, commemorating the day those who had been enslaved in the United States learned of their freedom,” Edwards said in signing the bill into law. “There are meaningful lessons for everyone to learn.”
Local officials also are taking action to remove public references to the Confederacy.
Willard filed HB 248 days before the St. Landry Parish Council voted to remove a Confederate monument that had been in front of the parish courthouse since it was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1920.
Community leaders told KLFY-TV the monument is a reminder of a dark era of racism and alleged it was erected with the intent of intimidating Black people from registering to vote.
“We’re not trying to denigrate anyone. We’re not trying to demonize anyone. No one in that council meeting tonight participated in putting up that monument. They have no fault in that,” former parish district attorney Charles Cravins, who led the effort to remove the monument, told the news site. “The only fault would come from not removing it when we know better.”
Willard’s HB 248 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary. The 2022 regular legislative session begins March 14.