Posted on April 6, 2023

Gov. Reeves Declares Confederate Heritage Month, a 30-Year-Old Mississippi Tradition

Ashton Pittman, Mississippi Free Press, April 4, 2023

For the fourth year in a row, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has signed a proclamation declaring April as Confederate Heritage Month in Mississippi, keeping alive a 30-year-old tradition that former Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice first began. Black people make up 38% of Mississippi’s population, which is the highest for any state.

A branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the SCV Camp 265 Rankin Rough & Ready’s, posted a copy of the proclamation on its Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon.

“Whereas, as we honor all who lost their lives in (the Civil War), it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us,” the proclamation says.


The group has posted Reeves’ proclamations annually since 2021; the R.E. Lee Camp 239 SCV Facebook group posted the 2020 proclamation. Without SCV groups posting the proclamations and the Jackson Free Press and Mississippi Free Press reporting on them, they could have gone unnoticed as they did before 2016; neither the governor nor any other state official publicizes the proclamations or posts them on any state websites or social-media pages.

Reeves defended issuing the proclamations in 2021.

“For the last 30 years, five Mississippi governors—Republicans and Democrats alike—have signed a proclamation recognizing the statutory state holiday and identifying April as Confederate Heritage Month,” he said in a statement to WAPT at the time. “Gov. Reeves also signed the proclamation because he believes we can all learn from our history.”


After Fordice became Mississippi’s first Republican governor in a century while courting the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and criticizing efforts to atone for the state’s racist past, he issued the inaugural Confederate Heritage Month proclamation at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1993.

Since then, one Democratic governor and three Republican governors have followed Fordice’s lead. In the 30 years since, only one governor has ever skipped issuing a Confederate Heritage Month proclamation. Despite issuing them for his first seven years in office between 2011 and 2018, former Gov. Bryant did not issue a Confederate Heritage Month proclamation in 2019, his last year in office, opting instead for a “Month of Unity” proclamation on behalf of a Christian organization.

The language in Reeves’ Confederate Heritage Month proclamation uses much of the same language as one that former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who served from 2000 to 2004, issued in April 2000.

Reached for comment Wednesday morning, Musgrove told the Mississippi Free Press that Confederate Heritage Month is “something that should not continue in today’s world.”


Former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour also signed Confederate Heritage Month proclamations every year between 2004 and 2016.

The SCV is a neo-Confederate organization that promotes Lost Cause myths that downplay slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War. The organization also runs Beauvoir, the Gulf Coast home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Beauvoir is now a museum that annually receives $100,000 from the State of Mississippi “for the purpose of capital development and maintenance.”


Reeves’ ties to the SCV stretch back long before his time as governor. In 2013, he spoke to the SCV’s national gathering in Vicksburg, Miss., in front of a massive Confederate battle flag and in a room decorated with smaller Confederate flags and cotton plants. After then-Lt. Gov. Reeves congratulated the organization for “keeping history for our youth,” speakers defended the Confederate “cause” and compared “Yankees” to German “Nazis” in World War II.

Long before entering politics, Reeves was part of a Millsaps College fraternity known for Confederate-themed parties where members wore blackface and for lionizing Confederate General Robert E. Lee. When it became an issue in his 2019 campaign for governor, though, he denied ever wearing blackface.