In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has taken the time to declare April “Confederate Heritage Month.”
The proclamation came two days after Reeves changed his position and issued a statewide ordering shutting down nonessential businesses and ordering residents to stay home, according to the Jackson Free Press.
Reeves’ proclamation says April is the month when, in 1861, “the American Civil War began between the Confederate and Union armies, reportedly the costliest and deadliest war ever fought on American soil.”
In 2016, then-Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a similar proclamation, although that one placed responsibility for the Civil War squarely on the shoulders of the Confederacy: “April is the month when the Confederate states began and ended a four-year struggle.” Reeves’ proclamation, as the Jackson Free Press noted, seems to spread the blame around.
Reeves faced significant criticism for being slow to issue a stay-at-home order for his state. And when he did so, his order was less strict than what some mayors had already done, allowing churches, as well as restaurants with 10 or fewer people, to stay open as “essential” businesses. He also took a shot at “liberal jurisdictions” that were shutting down more businesses.
In a follow-up order, Reeves closed down restaurants as well, restricting them to drive-through, curbside pickup and delivery.
Reeves did not return a request for comment on his Confederate history proclamation.
Reeves has long had ties to pro-Confederate organizations. In 2013, as lieutenant governor, Reeves spoke at an event for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate organization that claims the Civil War was not about slavery.
And as HuffPost reported last year, Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, a college fraternity that was known for pro-Confederate displays and run-ins with black students ― which became an issue in his gubernatorial run.
The fraternity looks to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its spiritual leader. A 1993 yearbook listed Reeves as a freshman that year, and he was featured as a Kappa Alpha member starting in the 1994 yearbook.
On Oct. 8, 1994, members of Kappa Alpha and another fraternity “donned Afro wigs and tied large Confederate flags around their necks,” according to an article in The Clarion-Ledger at the time. Some of them were also reportedly in blackface. The fraternity brothers “got into a shouting match” over the incident with some black students.
In 1995, the Kappa Alpha yearbook page showed a group of students standing with a Confederate flag in military attire. It’s not clear if Reeves was in the photo, although he was also pictured as a member of the fraternity that year.
“As a quick Google search will show, Lt. Gov. Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties, and across America, Kappa Alpha’s costume formal is traditionally called Old South in honor of the Civil War veteran who founded the fraternity in the 1800s,” Reeves’ spokeswoman said in 2019, in response to the controversy.
“I condemn racism because that’s the way I was raised,” Reeves added at the time, “and I will tell you that’s the way I have governed as lieutenant governor.”