- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

SUFFOLK, Va. (AP) The mayor of Suffolk is the great-grandson of slaves, yet he didn't hesitate to grant a Southern heritage group's request to declare April Confederate History Month.
"We have rendered proclamations for other groups," Mayor Curtis Milteer said. "It's a matter of recognizing and respecting everyone's heritage, even if it is not the same as our own."
Last month, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner announced his decision not to follow other governors issuing a proclamation honoring Confederate heritage in April.
"Over the past few years, the issuance of a Confederate History Month proclamation has been a lightning rod," Mr. Warner explained in his March 14 announcement. "My belief is that signing such a proclamation would not advance the healing process."
But Mr. Milteer said reflecting on the past is a way to bring people together to improve the future.
"The Civil War is over," he told the Suffolk News-Herald. "History is history, and we must move on. Whether we are sons and daughters of the Confederacy or the sons and daughters of former slaves, we are all Suffolkians."
Suffolk is one of nine localities with Confederate history resolutions this year, said Lee Hart, spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Tom Smith Camp, which asked for the proclamation in Suffolk. Others include Covington, Colonial Heights, Clifton Forge and Iron Gate, and the counties of Brunswick, Chesterfield, Lee and Prince William, Mr. Hart said.
The Confederate group said it appreciates Mr. Milteer's stance in the face of what is likely to be considerable controversy. Mr. Milteer said he's received more than 100 supportive e-mails.
"We applaud him for issuing the proclamation because we feel it shows mutual respect for all cultures," said Bill Richardson, commander of the Tom Smith Camp. "I recognize the significance of what he has done. He's going to take a lot of criticism."
Mr. Hart said Mr. Milteer "sees beyond the black-white thing and sees it as part of Suffolk's history," which includes black Confederate soldiers Jason and Aaron Boone.
But the NAACP, which has encouraged a tourist boycott of South Carolina because the state flies the Confederate flag, opposes promoting Confederate history and said Mr. Milteer could be inviting discord.
"This raises a red flag," Charles Christian, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, said after learning of the proclamation Saturday. "I have major concerns with this, and I'm a little surprised by it."
He said there could be repercussions.
"Right now, I can't say what they will be," Mr. Christian said. "If we have to be the front-runner, we'll just have to be the front-runner."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide