Confederate groups gathered for their annual Lee-Jackson Day parade and memorial service with a break from tradition.
The parade is usually held on a Saturday, but this year, it was held on Sunday, the day after CARE Rockbridge held the city’s first MLK Day Community Parade.
According to Brandon Dorsey of the Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the memorial service and other events held later in the day on Sunday had lower attendance than usual. He said some people visiting from out of state had to travel back home before the end of the weekend.
But Dorsey said the parade and memorial service still went well despite the change of day.
After the parade, people gathered to pay tribute to Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, as well as all other Confederate veterans. During the service, participants sang hymns and listened to speakers.
Due to the controversy surrounding the event this year, Dorsey explained, the Sons of Confederate Veterans included a keynote speaker who discussed minorities who served in the Confederate military, both on and off the battlefield.
Organizers wanted to reach out to others in the community and show that the celebration of Lee-Jackson Day is not about race, Dorsey said.
“This is not a race issue,” Dorsey said. “In fact, if anything, the Confederacy was integrated in a lot of ways where the United States wasn’t, the Union Army and so forth wasn’t.”
“What people need to understand – if you want to know anything about the Confederacy, you need to have an open mind and do some reading and get people to understand that it may just be your heritage also,” said Teresa Roane, a historian who served as the keynote speaker.
As for next year’s celebrations, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have applied to hold the parade on its usual Saturday next year, Dorsey said. City officials have received their request, he added, but have not yet made any final decision on their application.