As the nation deals with a pandemic, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has declared April “Confederate Heritage Month,” in his state, which currently has more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19.
Reeves issued the proclamation on April 3, two days after he changed his mind about issuing a shelter-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Jackson Free Press. In the proclamation, the Republican governor called the war “reportedly the costliest and deadliest war ever fought on American soil.”
He also included a generic passage urging “all Americans” to reflect on the past and develop gratitude for the nation’s history.
The move was celebrated by the Mississippi chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“God bless the Confederate Soldier. He shall never be forgotten. Deo Vindice!” the organization wrote on Facebook. Reeves has a lengthy history with the SCV. He was a speaker at the group’s 2013 national reunion and reportedly praised SCV for “keeping history alive for our youth.” Last February, in the middle of his gubernatorial campaign, Reeves defended his presence at the meeting by highlighting the attendance of Black officials.
“The African-American mayor of the city of Vicksburg also spoke to that group and welcomed them to Mississippi and thanked them for spending money in our state,” Reeves told reporters.
Reeves was also scrutinized after a yearbook from his time at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, showed members of his fraternity in blackface and Afros.
He was a member of The Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity with a track record of fetishizing Southern history and racist behavior. In a 1966 yearbook ad, a member of the club was dressed as a mammy. Confederate military supreme commander and slave owner Robert E. Lee is considered on of Kappa Alpha’s “spiritual fathers” by the fraternity.
The then-lieutenant governor admitted to attending events but denied participating in any racist acts, according to HuffPost.
“As a quick Google search will show, Lt. Gov. Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties, and across America, Kappa Alpha’s costume formal is traditionally called Old South in honor of the Civil War veteran who founded the fraternity in the 1800s,” Reeves’ spokeswoman said last year.
“I condemn racism because that’s the way I was raised,” Reeves added. “And I will tell you that’s the way I have governed as lieutenant governor.”