Georgia’s 2016 calendar will reflect the removal of two Confederate holidays: Robert E. Lee’s birthday, which is on January 19 but will be observed on November 27 in 2015; and Confederate Memorial Day, which is on April 26 but was observed on April 27 in 2015.
However, the calendar will not be completely free of these holidays: on the 2016 calendar, the aforementioned dates will now both say “state holiday.” And the state will still recognize the importance of these days because the Capitol and state agency offices will both be closed on those dates.
“There will be a state holiday on that day,” said Brian Robinson, a spokesperson for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. “Those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict.”
The decision was not publicized. Governor Deal quietly made state employees aware of the changes in an email last week — unlike in South Carolina, where Governor Nikki Haley very publicly signed the bill removing the Confederate flag from the State’s Capitol.
Controversy surrounding the Confederate flag and other representations of Confederacy came about following the murder of nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., all of whom were Black, by white supremacist Dylann Roof on June 17. Photographs of Roof with Confederate flags came to light following his arrest, calling into question the relevance of the flag, which represents racism to many Americans, in 2015. Roof has since been charged with a hate crime.
Following the murders, major retailers acted quickly in removing Confederate flags and other Confederate-themed merchandise from their stores, including Walmart (one of DiversityInc’s 2015 Top 25 Noteworthy Companies), Sears, eBay and Amazon.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D) does not believe the decision about the calendar reflects a genuine step forward.
“With a wink and nod they are saying ‘we are removing the name but you know it’s a day that we celebrate people who supported treason and slavery,'” he said. “I’m not mollified.”
Sen. Fort is in the process of drafting a bill to remove Confederate Memorial Day from Georgia’s state-recognized holidays and said this “inartful dodge” will not stop him from moving forward with the bill.
Like Sen. Fort, Georgia NAACP President Richard Rose believes all things Confederate belong in history and not the present. He does not see authenticity in the calendar decision, which he called a “grudging process.”
“There is absolutely no reason we should be celebrating Confederate Memorial Day,” he said. “There is no Confederate States of America, and there hasn’t been for 150 years.”