A Confederate group in Mississippi wants to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War … from now until 2015.
The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is proposing a series of license plates to commemorate the war, with a new one being introduced every year, the Associated Press reports.
One of those designs — slated for a 2014 release — commemorates Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who served as a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard after the war.
Mississippi state NAACP president Derrick Johnson was not pleased to hear the news.
“He should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden,” he said. “The state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state.”
Greg Stewart, a member of the SCV, said Forrest “redeemed” himself by eventually distancing himself from the KKK. But some critics don’t think that’s enough.
A Facebook group — dubbed “Mississippians Against The Commemoration Of Grand Wizard Nathan Forrest” — has launched in opposition, garnering more than 1,000 members. The group’s page reads, in part:
This page is for those Mississippians (and others) who want to share their concern for what is becoming an increasingly hostile environment for diversity & unity, as evidenced by the announcement of this symbolic honor for the leader of the worst domestic terrorist group our country has ever known.
State legislators still need to approve the series. But Rep. Willie Bailey (D), who handles license plate requests, said he doesn’t have a problem with the plates.
“They have that right,” he said. “We’ll look at it. As long as it’s not offensive to anybody, then they have the same rights as anybody else has.”
The Sons of Confederate Voters is the “oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers,” according to the groups website. Its South Carolina chapter in December sponsored a “secession ball” to celebrate the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. South Carolina’s NAACP president criticized the event in an interview with TPM, calling it insensitive.
The other license plates in the series would feature Civil War battles that were waged in Mississippi, the AP reports. The final plate would commemorate Confederate veterans.
Mississippi sells more than 100 novelty license plates, according to the AP report. Some of the best sellers include a NASCAR plate and one that reads, “Choose Life.”
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com