Confederate Memorial Day remains legal holiday in Florida, other southern states

Bill to remove holiday designation not likely to pass this year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are no major events planned around it these days, but April 26 continues to be Confederate Memorial Day -- a state-sanctioned holiday in Florida. The birthdays for Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee also remain legal holidays in Florida.

Five states have kept Confederate Memorial Day a legal holiday, although not all states set the date as the last Monday of April.

Florida state Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) filed legislation to eliminate State recognition of Confederate holidays and to repeal provisions penalizing destruction or damage of a Confederate flag. But it’s the last week of the 2021 legislative session, and neither the Senate bill nor a companion House bill has made it out of the three committees assigned to review the legislation.

April 26 was chosen in most states as it commemorates the surrender of the last major Confederate field army at Bennett Place, North Carolina.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement Monday condemning the observance of the holiday.

“Since Reconstruction, Confederate symbols have been used by white supremacists as tools of racial terror. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected hundreds of memorials to the Confederacy across the United States as part of an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people,” SPLC chief of staff Lecia Brooks wrote.

But the advocacy group is encouraged that more Americans are rejecting the symbols of the confederacy.

“In 2020, 170 Confederate symbols were removed from the U.S. landscape. And this year, 31 Confederate memorials have been removed or are pending removal. We recognize that removing these symbols is only the first step. We must work for racial justice and an honest reckoning with our country’s past and present. That cannot be accomplished by removing a memorial or renaming a school, but it is a necessary step,” Brooks added.

In the spring of 1866, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the 258,000 Confederate soldiers who died in military service. The first official celebration as a public holiday was eight years later, following a proclamation by the Georgia legislature. After the 2016 Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings by a white supremacist, Georgia removed Confederate Memorial Day from its official calendar, although the day remains designated a state holiday.