Another push to eliminate Texas' Confederate holiday
Houston state Rep. Jarvis Johnson is once again trying to abolish Confederate Heroes Day.
Why it matters: In the same week that the country celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s racial justice and civil rights legacy, Texas continues to honor the Confederacy with a holiday.
Catch up fast: Confederate Heroes Day, also known as Confederate Memorial Day, has been a state holiday since 1973 and is observed every year on Jan. 19, which is also Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday.
- It's a partial holiday, so state offices remain open and a skeleton crew is required, but employees can either take the day off or use the paid time off at a later date.
- Some years, like 2015, the holiday falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Driving the news: Johnson, a Democrat, has filed House Bill 51, which seeks to abolish Confederate Heroes Day.
- At 8:30am Wednesday, Johnson along with Democratic state Sen. Nathan Johnson and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer will speak on how the holiday celebrates white supremacists and slaveowners.
- "This is a holiday that kind of defines who Texas is .... We should not continue to embrace an ideology that is harmful to half the population of the state, so we want to change that narrative by getting rid of those things that open up old wounds," Johnson told Axios.
Flashback: This is Johnson's third time filing a bill to abolish this holiday.
- In 2019 and 2021, Johnson's bill never made it out of the House State Affairs Committee.
- Johnson said the committee chair in 2021 "feared that putting up a bill like this, and even having a conversation, was not the right thing to do."
- In 2020, Johnson told Texas Monthly, "A hero is somebody that's done something noble. There are no heroes in the Confederacy."
Zoom out: 10 states — all in the South — celebrate MLK Day and observe at least one confederate holiday during the rest of the year.
- Alabama and Mississippi celebrate MLK and Robert E. Lee, the losing Confederate general and slaveholder, on the same day.
- Texas, along with Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee all have at least one day commemorating the Confederacy on other days of the year, an Axios analysis found.
Context: Historians and scholars say the confederate holidays and monuments in the South mostly appeared well after the Civil War as confederate apologists pushed the Lost Cause narrative downplaying slavery.
What they're saying: "It is a diminishing reality that people even recognize and celebrate those Confederate days," NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson told Axios.
- "We must completely do away with any concept that the Confederacy and those who participated were patriots."
- DaMareo Cooper, co-executive director of The Center for Popular Democracy, said it was hypocritical for any state to honor King while celebrating those who defended enslavement.
What we're watching: Whether Johnson can be successful this year.
- "Every year we get closer and closer," Johnson said. "I think the message resonates."
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