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In many Southern states, June 3 celebrates the leader of the Confederacy

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A handful of states in the South have an official holiday, June 3, to honor Confederate president Jefferson Davis on his birthday. Though there's not a lot of fanfare around it, some of those states still resist calls to remove Confederate holidays altogether. Here's Justin Hicks from Louisville Public Media.

JUSTIN HICKS, BYLINE: Raoul Cunningham is president of Louisville, Ky.'s, NAACP, and he also knows a lot about Kentucky's holidays.

RAOUL CUNNINGHAM: At one point, I was deputy commissioner personnel for the state.

HICKS: So Cunningham knew that Kentucky law observes Jefferson Davis Day. It's still a workday for state employees, and many Kentuckians don't even know it exists. But he says just having such a day in state law sends a message.

CUNNINGHAM: The fact that you still put them on a pedestal is more disgraceful. I'm not hurt by them. I am offended by them and resent them.

HICKS: Kentucky is one of about 10 states that still have Confederate holidays on the books. In most places, they come and go unnoticed, but in others, like Alabama and Mississippi, state workers get a day off. In Kentucky, a bill has come up multiple times that would remove Confederate holidays. Chad Aull is a Democrat who introduced it this year, but it was ignored.

CHAD AULL: We could not get it assigned to a committee to even have a hearing.

HICKS: Oh, by the way, Kentucky was never even officially a Confederate state, but it is where Jefferson Davis was born. Karen Cox teaches history at the University of North Carolina. She says the holiday started with groups that promoted the Lost Cause, a movement that reframed the root causes of the Civil War at the turn of the century. Now many Confederate groups are just a fraction of the size, but their holidays remain.

KAREN COX: They're the Lost Cause leftovers (laughter). Most states don't officially observe it anymore. For the states that do, it's a waste of taxpayer money, is what it is.

HICKS: Florida still has Jefferson Davis's birthday on the books, too. Bob Holladay, a history professor in Tallahassee, thinks if it is observed, it should not be a celebration.

BOB HOLLADAY: I hope they're very somber about it. I don't know very much to celebrate about the Civil War. I hope that they're commemorated as a tragedy, you know, which it was.

HICKS: Meanwhile, in Kentucky, lawmakers say they will just keep trying to get rid of Confederate holidays.

For NPR News, I'm Justin Hicks in Louisville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Justin Hicks
[Copyright 2024 LPM News]