LEXINGTON, Va. – While the Commonwealth no longer celebrates Lee-Jackson Day as a holiday, organizers who have hosted events in the past to celebrate the day say the history must live on.
A smaller than usual crowd of people lined Main Street in Lexington Friday waving various flags with pride. In the past, the streets were packed with dozens of people. COVID-19 and forecasted snow are likely prohibitors of larger crowds.
Even though there was a smaller crowd, there was no shortage of smiles, laughs and camaraderie.
The holiday honors the life and legacy of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
“Both of them are important to this area and the people of this region,” said Brandon Dorsey of the Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
His group has organized Lee-Jackson Day activities for 24 years. So much has changed in that time.
Streets have been renamed, initiatives to promote diversity introduced, the cemetery named after Stonewall Jackson has a new name and the Confederate generals statue was removed from Virginia Military Institute.
Dorsey says “their history is misunderstood” by political fodder.
“Out here we are still proud of our history,” stated Dorsey. “We are still proud of our ancestors who fought with Lee and Jackson. We are proud of their character and morality and what they stood for. Not what politicians and people who don’t understand these men.”
Marylin Alexander was raised in Lexington, growing up in the 60s and 70s. She now serves as vice mayor.
“I think what it boils down to is respect,” said Alexander. “You might not agree on a particular idea or a situation, but you can always respect how someone else feels whether you like it or not.”
She says every part of history should continue to be taught even though it may not be on display.
“Those things don’t change the history, but the signs and symbols are changing because you have an entire population of people who are negatively impacted by the names, signs, and symbols,” explained Alexander.
Weather permitting, a memorial service at Jackson’s grave, a parade through town, and other services will take place this weekend.