Posted on April 29, 2024

Government Offices Close as Three Southern States Memorialize Confederacy

Gabriel Tynes, Courthouse News Service, April 26, 2024

Don’t bother with your driver’s license renewal in Diamondhead on April 29, or your tax inquiry in Tupelo. State offices across Mississippi will be closed on Monday as the Magnolia State observes Confederate Memorial Day.

Mississippi isn’t alone. Alabama and South Carolina also recognize Confederate Memorial Day, closing state offices on April 22 and May 10, respectively.

Other Southern states, including Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, still enshrine the holiday in state law but no longer close state offices in observance. That puts these states in stark contrast to much of the country, where there’s been a major reassessment of the Confederacy’s legacy in recent years.

A lot has changed in the United States since June 17, 2015, when a white supremacist with an interest in provoking racial conflict walked into historically Black Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and murdered nine parishioners. Citing the perpetrator’s embrace of segregation and Confederate symbolism, then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley almost immediately ordered the Confederate battle flag removed from the statehouse grounds.

In the wake of those killings, other states and cities also took steps to remove Confederate monuments and memorials. Calls to do so only intensified after other incidents of racial violence, including the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, West Virginia, in 2017 and the killing of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Headquartered in Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a database of Confederate monuments and memorials. According to the group, as many as 10% of the nation’s Civil War monuments and memorials have been removed or relocated from public spaces in recent years. Still, more than 2,000 remain.


Unlike Memorial Day, which is observed nationwide on the last Monday in May, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on different days because it is rooted in local traditions, according to Caroline Janney, a professor of history at the University of Virginia who has published books on the legacy of the Civil War.

It was Confederate wives and widows who first established organizations and events memorializing the war, Janney said. Individual states did not establish dates for Confederate Memorial Day until sometime after 1868, when Memorial Day was established by the federal government.

Some Southern states observe Robert E. Lee Day on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, choosing to honor a Confederate general alongside the civil-rights icon. Alabama also observes Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ birthday, closing offices on the first Monday in June. It’s the only Southern state with three holidays celebrating the Confederacy.


In all three states that still celebrate Celebrate Memorial Day, there have been efforts to repeal it — though those efforts have so far been unsuccessful. A 2022 attempt in South Carolina to replace Confederate Memorial Day with Juneteenth failed, as did a 2023 measure in Alabama that would have also established a state holiday honoring Rosa Parks. That Democrat-sponsored measure never made it out of committee, but opponents aren’t giving up. Just this year in Mississippi, state Representative Kabir Karriem, also a Democrat, pledged to make MLK Day a standalone holiday. (Like in Alabama, that bill died in committee.)