Democrats are seeking to strike down three state-sanctioned holidays commemorating the Confederacy. This is not the first time this has been attempted.
Miami Beach Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco is fighting to stop Florida from recognizing three Confederate holidays.
Earlier this year, following nationwide protests seeking social justice reforms, the state issued a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated on June 19 to mark the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. This brought renewed interest in Florida’s approach to observing public holidays symbolic of racial injustice.
The holidays in question are former Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ birthday on June 3, former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday on Jan. 19, and Confederate Memorial Day, which is observed on April 26. Florida has honored Lee’s birthday since 1895. That same year, April 26 became Confederate Memorial Day on the state calendar. Davis’ June 3 birthday was first recognized in 1905.
All three are state-sanctioned holidays, and although Florida workers don’t earn a paid day on those dates, many object to the fact they are still acknowledged under state law.
A Push From Grieco
In the first round of bills for next year’s legislative session, Grieco is pushing to stop the state from upholding these holidays. This is not the first time this has been attempted. Two years ago—over the objections of those who argued the proposal would erase Southern history and even went as far as to call it “cultural genocide”—the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, stated that the goal wasn’t an attempt to expunge history, but to sever ties with the Confederacy, “which upheld the institution of slavery and perpetuated inequality and division within our country.”
At the time, the Senate Community Affairs Committee voted 4-2 to support the measure to remove the Lee, Davis, and Confederate days from a list of 21 legal holidays in Florida. However, the GOP-controlled Legislature did not move the bill forward.
After earlier this year when Mississippi moved forward to remove the Confederate battle flag from its official state flag design, Grieco raised the issue again as he promoted his legislation.
“As we have seen a shift in how and who we formally celebrate, it seems only appropriate that Florida participate in the modern shifting views of the Confederacy and what it stood for,” Grieco said early in December.
“By removing these ‘holidays’ from state law we are sending the same message sent by Mississippi voters when they changed their state flag last month,” he added.
“A Slight to All Floridians”
Celebrating the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the birthday of Robert E. Lee, and Confederate Memorial Day as legal holidays “is a slight to all Floridians who believe in justice, fairness, and equality,” said Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Florida House of Representatives from the 63rd House district in Hillsborough County. “No world should exist in which these Confederate holidays are elevated above the contributions of [the] slaves, their descendants, and those who fought for their freedom.”
If Grieco’s bid to remove those Confederate holidays passes, the legislation would take effect on July 1, 2021.