While state governors rush to provide local leadership in the face of a global pandemic, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has found time for declaring the month of April as Confederate Heritage Month.
Reeves’ proclamation cites April of 1861 as the month in which the American Civil War began between Confederacy and Union armies. It's well worth noting that the confederate flag is considered a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
The Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) posted a copy of the proclamation in an April 3 Facebook post hailing the Confederacy.
“God bless the Confederate Soldier. … May he, or his sacrifices, never be forgotten. Deo Vindice!” the post read.
The phrase “Deo Vindice," is Latin for “under God as our vindicator” and was featured on the official seal of the Confederacy as its motto, according to the Jackson Free Press.
In February 2016, the Free Press found that then-Gov. Phil Bryant had signed a similar proclamation. The announcement did not appear on Bryant’s page of proclamations on his official gubernatorial website, but it did land on the website of Beauvoir, a museum dedicated to Confederate President Jackson Davis and operated by the SCV.
Reeves has long had affiliations with the SCV and pro-Confederacy groups. In 2013, he spoke at the national reunion for the SCV as lieutenant governor. As a student, Reeves was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order at Millsaps College, a fraternity known for pro-Confederacy displays, per the Free Press. The fraternity props up confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its spiritual leader and guide.
In October 1994, the Clarion-Ledger reported that members of Kappa Alpha and another fraternity wore blackface and Afro wigs and tied large confederate flags around their necks. The incident led to fraternity brothers getting “into a shouting match” with Black students. The Free Press uncovered photos from 1995 that depict Kappa Alpha members standing with a confederate flag in military attire. Though Reeves is pictured as a member of the fraternity in the yearbook that year, it’s unclear if he participated in either event.
Reeves' Confederate Heritage Month proclamation arrived two days after he changed his position on coronavirus-related safety measures in Mississippi, issuing a statewide order to shut down nonessential businesses and executing a stay-at-home order for residents.
According to the Free Press, Reeves made it clear that nonessential businesses must close, include clothing stores, related retail outlets and shopping centers, which had been left in a bind that he and other local officials struggled to resolve. On April 1, Reeves said that these businesses could maintain “minimum operations” but must remain closed to the public at large, despite initially opting to keep such places open.
“To be honest with you, if I was going to make the politically easy decision, I would have issued an order such as this weeks and weeks ago,” Reeves said. “That was the easy decision politically because there were lots of people calling on lots of different political leaders to make that decision.”
The order also completely overrides Reeves’ previous allowance for dine-in services at restaurants with restricted service to only 10 people at once. Restaurants in Mississippi now can only offer drive-thru, curbside pickup or delivery.