NAACP Sees ‘Celebratory’ Tone in S.C.’s Civil War Ceremonies

Wayne Washington, The State (Columbia, South Carolina), January 17, 2011

Hot-button political issues, including the commemoration of the Civil War and immigration reform, will be the focus of today’s King Day at the Dome march and rally.

At the State House rally, Lonnie Randolph, president of the S.C. state conference of the NAACP, said he will decry what he has described as “the ongoing celebratory tone that’s being taken” to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

Another speaker, Wade Henderson, president of the Washington-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said he will urge African-Americans to defend the U.S. citizenship of American-born children of illegal immigrants.

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William Barber, president of the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP, is scheduled to lead the prayer service. Afterward, there will be a march from Zion Baptist to the steps of the State House, where Randolph will speak, opposing cuts in state health care and education spending and what he sees as the offensive tone of some Civil War anniversary commemorations.

That tone was underscored, Randolph said, by a secession ball that was held last month in Charleston, where guests–including elected officials–dressed up in period costumes, danced and listened to a dramatic reading of the Ordinance of Secession.

The recent re-enactment of a Civil War engagement by cadets from The Citadel also struck Randolph as inappropriately celebratory.

“When they fired the shots at the Star of the West, they cheered,” Randolph said of the cadets, who pretended to fire on a Union vessel, as cadets did 150 years ago. “A military school–a state military school–bragging about trying to overthrow the government? What type of people are we training?”

Cadets cheered “Hip-hip hooray!” after the shots were fired. The State newspaper reported the mood among them was more serious than celebratory.

Still, Randolph said he is concerned that anniversary events could lead to praise for those who fought against the United States in a war to preserve slavery. “We’re still fighting the Civil War here in South Carolina,” Randolph said. “South Carolina still wants to secede.”

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Henderson said he wants to spur African-Americans to defend birthright citizenship. “Those in the African-American community have seen this kind of attack on citizenship before.”

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