- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Democrats are weighing whether they should rename an annual fundraiser that’s named after two former U.S. presidents whom historians say had owned hundreds of slaves.

Party Chairman Vince Insalaco said changing the name of the event from the “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner” to something else has been discussed in the past, but that there hasn’t been any serious steps taken to do so. Now, he said, the party appears ready to drop the “Jefferson-Jackson” label after speaking with party officials.

“I do think it’s something that will happen,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1IKgZj9 ) of the dinner’s name change.

The fundraiser is named after the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, and the country’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, and it has been held for at least 50 years in Arkansas. The question of whether to change the name comes at a time when many Americans are re-examining the nation’s history, said Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University.

“I think we live in an age where there’s a heightened attention to symbols and symbolism, and I think especially the events of the last few weeks with shootings in Charleston (South Carolina) and the Confederate flag have elevated the consciousness of it,” Bass said. “It think it’s event-driven as opposed to some sort of natural evolution.”

If the state’s Democratic Party decides to rebrand the dinner, Arkansas would follow in the footsteps of other Democrats across the nation, including in Missouri and Georgia, who also have changed the event’s name.

“Current events (have) pushed the mood. People evolve, things change,” Insalaco said. “I don’t think anybody in Arkansas has raised anything derogatory about Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, I just think they’d like more of a contemporary figure that represents more contemporary values of the Democratic Party in Arkansas.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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