Jacob Walker’s students grew up seeing the Confederate flag everywhere — on T-shirts, on keychains, and on cars. He teaches Mississippi studies, world history, government, and economics at a Mississippi high school. After Gov. Phil Bryant’s controversial decision to (R) declare April Confederate Heritage Month, Walker read his students, who are mostly African American, the language of the proclamation.
“I had some students who were upset about it, saying, ‘Why should we be celebrating this?’ So some students were upset and other students, it didn’t bother them much,” Walker said. “I really don’t have students who complain about the state flag or Confederate flag as much as maybe people think they do, because it’s been there their whole life. I don’t want to say they’ve become numb to it, but it’s something that has just always existed.”
Confederate Heritage Month is not something history teachers are required to talk to their students about, but some teachers said there could be a potential benefit — that the declaration could function as an opening to talk about the way in which the Confederacy is portrayed, as more of a concept of Southern pride and a romanticized vision of the Antebellum South period, between the 1780s and 1860, that pushes the reality of slavery to the side.
The governor’s decision came after a request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to The Clarion Ledger. The group also does not want to change the state’s flag, which has a Confederate symbol, and the language of the declaration does not mention slavery once, only “mistakes” in the same line “successes” are mentioned. It reads: “Whereas it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and our 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 …”