After more than a century, Confederate Memorial Day along with the birthdays of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis would no longer be legal holidays in Florida under a bill approved by a Senate committee.
The bill (SB 214) is being sponsored by Senator Lauren Book, D-Plantation. This comes in the midst of a national debate about Confederate symbols in the aftermath of a white supremacist rally last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Cities and states across the country have been examining their public tributes to men associated with the Confederacy and slavery.
Book said her goal isn’t to erase the history, but to undercut tributes to the Confederacy.
The bill must get through two additional committees to reach the Senate floor, while an identical House proposal (HB 227) has not appeared in committees.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillium has chimed in with a show of support. "We're not going to rewrite history, but we can and should work together to build a better, more just future for every Floridian — which means critically examining the remnants of the Confederacy on our public lands and in our laws.”
Florida has honored Lee's birthday, Jan. 19, since 1895, the same year April 26 became Confederate Memorial Day on the state calendar. Davis' June 3 birthday went on the books in 1905. Lee is from Virginia and Davis is most associated with Mississippi.
When asked about the new bill, Darius Young, Associate Professor of History, said, “The Confederacy was an act of treason against the United States so to continue to recognize it on a state level is completely disrespectful to all Americans and especially to Black people.”
Many FAMU students who were contacted said they were unaware that the state calendar includes holidays for Gen. Lee and Jefferson Davis.
“I honestly didn’t know that Confederate Memorial Day was a holiday recognized, especially in Florida, but it also doesn’t surprise me. There are plenty of things that are lingering around from that era,” said Alphonso Robinson,, a third-year biology student.
State law includes a list of 21 legal holidays, including Confederate Memorial Day. Other holidays included in this law are Sunday, New Year’s on January 1st, Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 15th of January, Good Friday, and Shrove Tuesday, sometimes also known as “Mardi Gras.”