In July 2013, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves stepped up onto a stage, surrounded by Confederate flags in front of him, behind him, to his left, and to his right; arrangements of cotton also framed him. He had come to Vicksburg to speak at that year’s national reunion of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate group that seeks to rewrite the history of the Civil War, recasting the Confederacy and its many slave masters as noble fighters for a righteous cause.
At the same event where Reeves, who is now the Republican frontrunner in the race for Mississippi governor, spoke, another speaker compared “Yankees” to the Nazis who committed the Holocaust.
Reeves’ attendance at the event has been long known; he posted a photo of himself on at it on Facebook in 2013 (though that photo showed far less of the Confederate imagery than the one in this post). He deleted that photo earlier this year. But in February, the Jackson Free Press unearthed videos of speakers at the event, as well as blog posts describing Reeves’ speech.
In one of the videos, SCV’s leader at the time, Michael Givens, lamented the South’s loss, and the loss of its’ “freedom” to determine its own “destiny”—which, back then, meant its right to continue the legalized practice of human enslavement.
“And we lost the right of having a free nation,” Givens said. “We lost the right of Americans being able to plan their destiny, to choose their way of government.”
The Pratville Dragoons, a branch of SCV, blogged about Reeves’ speech in 2013.
“He welcomed everyone to Vicksburg … and congratulated the SCV for keeping history alive for our youth,” the post reads. “He is proud to support the Mississippi monument at Shiloh and explained that the War Between the States defined us and what we as a nation have become. He encouraged everyone to tour the historic battlefields to help us understand the events which led brother to fight brother and the terror the civilians felt waiting for the fighting to stop. Lt. Gov. Reeves was given a standing ovation.”
Another speaker at the July 2013 gathering, the Dragoons wrote, was “inspirational in his testimonial of his Confederate roots and spirit, saying he knows what the damned Yankees did was wrong as much as what the Nazis did to the Jews during WWII.”
When the Jackson Free Press reached out to Reeves’ office in February, they said he would not have used language like “the war between the states,” which is a neo-Confederate buzzword.
Around the same time, Reeves’ campaign came under fire after yearbook photos appeared to show members of his fraternity wearing blackface during the time that he was at Millsaps College. He told reporters at the time that he was not in any of the photos. Attorney General Jim Hood, the Democratic frontrunner for governor, also had to deal with questions about photos of his fraternity members in blackface.