Black Mississippi Legislator Defends Confederate Monument

Confederate Heritage Month Minute
By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

Black Mississippi Legislator Defends Confederate Monument

In Mississippi on February 1, 1890, an appropriation for a monument to the
Confederate dead was being considered. A delegate had just spoken against the
bill, when John F. Harris, a Black Republican delegate from Washington, county,
rose to speak:
"Mr. Speaker! I have risen in my place to offer a few words on the bill.

I have come from a sick bed. Perhaps it was not prudent for me to come. But
sir, I could not rest quietly in my room without contributing a few remarks
of my own.

I was sorry to hear the speech of the young gentlemen from Marshall County.
I am sorry that any son of a soldier would go on record as opposed to the erections
of a monument in honor of the brave dead. And, Sir, I am convinced that had
he seen what I saw at Seven Pines, and in the Seven Day’s fighting around Richmond,
the battlefield covered with mangled forms of those who fought for this country
and their country’s honor, he would not have made the speech.

When the news came that the South had been invaded, those men went forth to
fight for what they believed, and they made not requests for monuments. But
they died, and their virtues should be remembered.

Sir, I went with them. I, too, wore the gray, the same color my master wore.
We stayed for four long years, and if that war had gone on till now I would
have been there yet. I want to honor those brave men who died for their convictions.

When my Mother died I was a boy. Who, Sir, then acted the part of Mother to
the orphaned slave boy, but my old Missus! Were she living now, or could speak
to me from those high realms where are gathered the sainted dead, she would
tell me to vote for this bill. And, Sir, I shall vote for it. I want it known
to all the world that my vote is given in favor of the bill to erect a monument

When the applause died down, the measure passed overwhelmingly, and every Black
member voted "AYE."

(Source: War For What? by Francis Springer)

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