Mississippi gov declares April Confederate Heritage Month

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Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared April Confederate Heritage Month on a pro-Confederate website, following a path similar that states have taken in the past.

Bryant’s proclamation was posted to the Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans website, but not to the governor’s site. He signed it days before legislators killed bills that would have either removed the Confederate battle emblem from the 122-year-old state flag or stripped money from colleges and local governments that refuse to fly the current banner.

The Jackson Free Press, a weekly newspaper, first reported the proclamation Wednesday and noted that other Southern state governors have passed similar proclamations. Georgia designates each April as Confederate History and Heritage month.

The paper noted that the Sons of Confederate Veterans group is against the changing of the Mississippi flag and “pushes a revisionist history about the Civil War.”

Clay Chandler, a spokesman for Bryant, said pervious governors, Democrat and Republican, have issued similar proclamations for Confederate Heritage Month.

"Gov. Bryant believes Mississippi's history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be," Chandler said. "Like the proclamation says, gaining insight from our mistakes and successes will help us move forward."

Symbols of the Confederacy have come under fire since the mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church last June. Dylann Roof was charged in killings and had been seen posing for photos online holding a Confederate flag. After the shooting, South Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley removed a Confederate battle flag that had flown for years on the Statehouse lawn.

Also since the attack, several Mississippi cities and counties, and some universities, have stopped flying the state flag, which is the last in the nation to feature the Confederate emblem — a red field topped by a blue X dotted with 13 white stars.

Democratic state Rep. Ed Blackmon, a member of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, said he has no problem with people honoring Confederate ancestors.

"But, at the same time, I would hope the governor would consider that people have problems with the Confederate flag," Blackmon said.

Blackmon said he grew up seeing the flag used by the Ku Klux Klan as a symbol of racial oppression. He said: "That's a part of history you cannot deny."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.