Alabama’s Amplification of the Legacy of Jefferson Davis

Lacy Nelson
3 min readJun 3, 2020

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In an era largely defined by police brutality targeting the Black community, why are we not holding states like Alabama accountable for glorifying confederate-era figureheads who fought for racist ideals?

I remember the first time I actually walked the steps leading up to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. I was a bit surprised to see one of the statues so prominently featured outside was of Jefferson Davis — former president of the confederacy. This was on December 25, 2018 — Christmas Day — and despite us being nearly two decades into the 21st century, I should not have been shocked.

In the South, it is hard to escape the name, imagery and legacy of Jefferson Davis. My brother attended Jefferson Davis Elementary School in Biloxi, Mississippi — less than two miles from our house. And just a couple miles further, on Beach Boulevard overlooking the Mississippi Sound, sits Beauvoir — the home and presidential library of Jefferson Davis. At the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., each state has two statues depicting notable people in their state’s history on display. Mississippi is represented by James Zachariah George (a confederate-era politician) and — you guessed it — Jefferson Davis (who served as a U.S. Representative and Senator from Mississippi). Millions of visitors each year who tour the Capitol see his statue located in the National Statuary Hall.

These are just three examples that quickly come to mind. I want to say in this day and age I should not be able to so quickly think of one, much less three, relevant examples, but it would be callous and ignorant to act as if that is the case.

But if you are still not sold on the South’s partiality toward confederate era figureheads and symbols in modern-day America, then just drive the stretch of I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham — you will see a giant confederate flag flying high. Or visit Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery on Ann Street — I, myself, attended Lee Middle School in Columbus, Mississippi. Cross the state line into Columbus, Georgia, where you will find Fort Benning — again, another nod to the confederate era and the legacy of Jim Crow in the South. Have you ever seen the Mississippi state flag? It is the only state flag in the United States to bare Confederate insignia. This partiality is not subtle or hidden from view — none of this is. The only disguise it wears is that cry we hear all too often in the deep South, “It’s heritage, not hate!”

In a state with a large Black population, it is particularly egregious we still set aside a day each year to honor the memory of a traitor and a racist — Alabama is the only state to have a legal holiday honoring Davis (June 1). And it is vile we preach a government supposedly working for all when outside the front of the statehouse stands a statue of a man who did not believe all men were created equal.

It has been 2,146 days since Eric Garner told New York City police he could not breathe when they pinned him down. It has been 80 days since Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own apartment by police in Louisville, Kentucky. It has now been exactly one week — seven days — since George Floyd said the exact same words Eric Garner said in 2014, but this time 1,200 miles away in Minneapolis, Minnesota and nearly six years later.

And these are just three names that quickly come to mind. I want to say in this day and age I should not be able to so quickly think of one, much less three, names of black men and women brutally and senselessly murdered by police, but it would be callous and ignorant to act as if that is the case.

Despite all this, Alabama still woke up this morning and many state offices, spanning from Huntsville down to Mobile, continued to observe this holiday — if you should even call it that.

Note: the Mississippi flag, which bared confederate battle insignia for 126 years, was replaced by the New Magnolia flag on June 30, 2020 — which removed the confederate insignia. This piece was originally drafted on June 3, 2020, just 27 days before the new flag was installed.

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Lacy Nelson

South Mississippian. Expat in D.C. Sno-ball enthusiast. Willie Morris fan. Avid distance runner. Congressional swamp creature. AP style purist [mostly].