On Tuesday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax stepped down from the senate podium during a state senator meeting as Republican senate members moved to adjourn while honoring the memory of Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
Fairfax, who leads the state Senate — and is the state's only black statewide officeholder — instead took his seat to protest a tribute to Jackson.
“It’s a personal decision for me," Fairfax told reporters. "There are people in Virginia history that I think it’s appropriate to memorialize and remember in that way, and others that I would have a difference of opinion on."
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson served under General Robert E. Lee, and became widely known for his involvement in battles against the Union during the Civil War. In addition to his tactical fighting, Gen. Jackson was recognized amongst his officers as harsh and often punished his command for minor violations.
According to Richmond.com, Fairfax planned on making a similar move the week prior when senate members were expected to honor the memory of General Robert E. Lee. Gen. Lee fought in the American civil war, and has been championed as one of the Confederate’s greatest allies for their pro-slavery cause. Gen. Lee’s history resurfaced in the wake of Charlottesville riots, where white supremacists bearing tiki torches protested the removal of Gen. Lee’s statue. This senate meeting comes fives months after the riots, where one woman was killed by a white supremacist who intentionally drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax stepped off the dais when Republicans moved to adjourn in memory of Stonewall Jackson https://t.co/PhAfrBo2eV— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) January 23, 2018
Senator Emmett Hanger, who took the podium in order to give a speech remembering Gen. Lee’s legacy, rationalized his decision by telling Go Dan River:
“We can’t change history, but we can debate whether we should erase the memory of our heroes, who in fact turned out to be just mortal men and women with the same shortcomings as all of us,” Sen. Hanger said.
Fairfax, on the other hand, reportedly kept a document in his pocket during the meeting – a copy of the same paper freeing his ancestors who were victims of slavery in 1798.