Confederate Flag
The Confederate Battle Flag is a controversial symbol in the USREUTERS/Chris Keane

Mississippi is to celebrate "Confederate Heritage Month" during April, its governor has been announced. In an official proclamation, Governor Phil Bryant also confirmed the last Monday in the month as Confederate Memorial Day – but has left no space in his calendar for Black History Month.

In his proclamation, Bryant, a Republican, spoke of the Confederate States' "four-year struggle" and called citizens "to honor those who served in the Confederacy". Critics have pointed out that little mention is made of the reasons for the war – namely the right to keep slaves.

He wrote: "It is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation's past, to insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us."

The move was first announced online by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a pressure group which publishes revisionist history about the Civil War, but it has now also appeared on official state channels. A spokesman defended the governor and said that previous incumbents had made similar proclamations.

"Gov Bryant believes Mississippi's history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be," Clay Chandler said. "Like the proclamation says, gaining insight from our mistakes and successes will help us move forward."

Mississippi is just one of several southern states to honour the Confederacy in this way. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Texas all mark the Civil War in some form, while Virginia has done in the past, to some outcry.

The Mississippi legislature meanwhile missed a deadline this week to act on 19 proposals to change the state flag – which features the controversial Confederate flag and which is seen by many as an emblem of white supremacy.