Virginia is joining the list of state Democratic organizations changing the name of an important annual fundraiser known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, named after two presidents who owned slaves.
The new name will be the Blue Commonwealth Gala, Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker announced Saturday at the party’s central committee meeting in Richmond. The old name paid tribute to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, who are credited as two of the founders of the Democratic Party.
Swecker told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the name change will indicate the dinner is “more inclusive and reflective of a fair commonwealth.”
Several states have changed the name of their dinners, including Utah in 2007, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Some did so in 2015, a year that saw a mass killing at an African-American church in South Carolina and fights over the Confederate battle flag.
Presidents Jefferson and Jackson both owned plantations and slaves.
Jackson also signed the Indian Removal Act, which allowed the federal government to force several large tribes from their lands and move them West. In the most famous removal, thousands of Cherokees reportedly died along what became known as the “Trail of Tears.”
Jefferson’s ties to his home state were a “challenge” for the state party, Swecker said.
The party tweeted that the announcement was met with a “rousing ovation.”
“The Blue Commonwealth Gala will be a celebration of our party’s dedication to expanding opportunity for all Virginians. Building off our historic victories in the 2017 election, we are excited to rename our signature event as we work to make Virginia a stronger, fairer, and more prosperous Commonwealth,” she said.
Spokesman Jake Rubenstein said it was a decision that came as a result of much discussion.
“After years of talking to a wide swath of Democratic stakeholders – including many committee members, elected officials, and party leaders – Chairwoman Swecker felt there was a consensus for a bolder, bluer, forward-looking brand,” he wrote in an email.
The dinner is scheduled for June 16.
The event in Tennessee, where Jackson was elected to Congress and then to the presidency, is called the Three Star Jackson Day Dinner.