COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The South Carolina Democratic Party has decided to rename its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, dropping the names of the two former presidents who helped develop the Democratic Party. The change is not going over well with some party members.
The reason for the change is that Jefferson and Jackson were both slave owners, and Jackson had the nickname “Indian Killer.” While president, he forced Native Americans to move from their land east of the Mississippi to what is now Oklahoma, with thousands dying on the journey that became known as “The Trail of Tears.”
Jaime Harrison, chair of the SC Democratic Party, says of the name change, “What it was about was making sure that my Native American brothers and sisters, making sure that my African-American brothers and sisters, and those who understand and feel and appreciate their pains, don’t have to go to a dinner and be reminded of some of the heartache from the past.”
This year it will still be called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner but the party will form a committee to come up with a new name next year. It could choose someone else to name the dinner after, or it could do something similar to what the SC Republican Party did, whose annual dinner is called the “Silver Elephant Banquet.”
Former Gov. Jim Hodges, the last Democratic governor in the state, is against the name change, though, and posted on Facebook:
I don’t agree with this at all. Several significant points:
1. We’d be singing God Save the Queen if it hadn’t been for Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Both are ranked among the top ten U.S. Presidents in terms of accomplishments. To ignore their contributions to our republic is short-sighted;
2. It seems like the appropriate way to deal with any historical figure is to offer the full story- good and bad. I don’t imagine anyone- Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Jackson- could survive full scrutiny of their beliefs and actions in the context of current times…just like those of us living now won’t be able to fully survive that scrutiny 50 or 100 years from now. We shouldn’t make them demi-gods, but should recognize the role they played in creating the Democratic Party;
3. Andrew Jackson is South Carolina’s only president, and was born in my home county of Lancaster (I will admit to some bias on this point). He was the first true champion of the little guy. Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant author of the Constitution who paved the way for western expansion of the United States. It’s hard to imagine two presidents that played more important figures during strategic moments in our country’s history;
4. We as Democrats should focus on a the issues people talk about every morning at the breakfast table- better schools, better jobs, a system that treats everyone with respect and gives everyone a fair shake and opportunity to get ahead. We don’t need to be tone deaf to the issues that can create a majority in elections; and
5. We are a diverse party- I am proud of that- and it’s a true strength of the Democratic Party that keeps a lot of us engaged. We need to find ways to honor other iconic leaders in our party’s history, but I think trying to erase Jefferson and Jackson from the party’s history book is not the way to go.
Former state representative and Democratic National Committeeman Boyd Brown also disagrees with the change. “You get a little tired of the revisionist history that happens too often today,” he says. “It’s just a little absurd to be panning two Founding Fathers of this country because somebody’s worried about what they did way-back-when looks bad today. And yeah, that does look bad today, but that’s why we progress and that’s why we change and those men had a large part to do with how we’ve changed over the years.”
Other states have also recently made the same change, with Democrats in Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, and Missouri dropping the “Jefferson-Jackson” name.