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On Saturday, a group gathered in Alabama to mark the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the first president of the Confederacy, 11 Southern slave states that left the US in 1860 and 1861. They say they are honouring their ancestors and their heritage but, as the BBC’s Daniel Nasaw reports, critics view the group as celebrating slavery.

Under a bright Southern sky on Saturday, the Sons of Confederate Veterans will dress in period costume, including replica grey uniforms of the Confederate army, to commemorate the first raising of a national flag and the inauguration of a president.

They won’t be saluting the familiar Stars and Stripes or honouring an occupant of the White House. Instead, they will pay tribute to the Confederate States of America, a political entity created after 11 states seceded from the US. That painful division led to the Civil War.

The event’s organisers say that in addition to marking an important moment in US history, the commemoration is intended to instil a sense of pride in Southerners who they say have been taught to be ashamed of their heritage.

“It is imperative that this event be well attended,” the Sons of Confederate Veterans Alabama division told supporters on its website.

“We must show the world that we will not permit the history and heritage of the Confederacy to be forgotten and unobserved.

“It is up to us to see that this history is remembered and portrayed in the right way.”

But critics see Saturday’s planned event differently – as an inappropriate and unsettling celebration of the enslavement of African Americans.

“Montgomery and Alabama will once again be cast as backwards, ignorant, racist hillbillies,” wrote Montgomery Advertiser columnist Josh Moon in a recent article that called the planned rally a “national embarrassment” that would hold the state up to “ridicule”.

“And we’ll once again make it clear to everyone that some of us just can’t let go of our racist past… The people who wore those Confederate uniforms were fighting for the wrong side, no matter what their personal intentions might have been.”

The disagreement shows how the spasms of the Civil War continue to reverberate in US society almost a century-and-a-half after it ended with the surrender of the Confederacy, analysts say.

“It shows that we still haven’t come quite to terms with the significance of slavery in American history,” says prominent US historian Eric Foner, of Columbia University.

Historian Joshua Rothman, of the University of Alabama, says: “I don’t think there’s any possible way to disconnect the memory of the Confederacy from contemporary racial politics.”

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