It’s Time To Change the Name of the JJ Dinner

It’s Time To Change the Name of the JJ Dinner


( – promoted by lowkell)

With another successful Arlington County Democratic Committee Jefferson-Jackson (“JJ”) Dinner in the books and the Democratic Party of Virginia JJ with Hilary Clinton right around the corner, it’s time to have a hard discussion about why we here in Virginia haven’t done away with this event’s terrible, reproachable name.  For those not in the know, “Jefferson-Jackson Day” is the traditional name for the annual fundraising dinner held by state and local Democratic Party organizations throughout the United States, usually in the springtime.  The name of the JJ Dinner honors Presidents Thomas Jefferson, who established the original Democratic-Republican Party, and Andrew Jackson, who founded the modern day Democratic Party and was the first Democrat elected President.  Neither, however, embodied modern Democratic values. 

Jefferson’s mixed feelings about slavery, which included a failure to liberate his own slaves and a belief that slaves were too primitive to handle full manumission, are well-documented.  Jackson has a far more reprehensible history as an overtly pro-slavery racist.  Jackson’s first major legislative initiative after being elected President was to effectuate the mass removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands through forced marches that resulted in thousands of deaths—a genocide we now know as the Trail of Tears.  And, Jackson not only owned hundreds of slaves, but he sought to prohibit abolitionists from mailing informative tracts opposing slavery, tabled abolitionist activity in Congress, and was himself a slave trader.  A more detailed rundown of Jackson’s shameful legacy can be found in Steve Inskeep’s new book, Jacksonland, and in this Salon piece from 2013.  Indeed, Jackson’s disgusting legacy has been all over the news lately with the introduction in Congress of the “Put a Woman on the Twenty Act” and the corresponding “Women on $20s” campaign.  Any way you slice it, Jackson is no one we as Democrats should praise. 


Virginia Democrats have long-celebrated our Commonwealth’s move away from its racist past as a stronghold of slavery and the capitol of the Confederacy.  The day after President Barack Obama became the first Democratic Presidential candidate to carry Virginia in forty years, then-Governor Tim Kaine declared proudly that “Old Virginny is dead.”  Kaine’s promise of a new Virginia is even more relevant and important in 2015, as recent terrible events remind us that we are not a post-racial America, but rather are struggling to ensure safety and respect for all our people.  It is even more important now that Virginia Democrats renounce any celebration of racism and violence in our official events.  Changing the name of the JJ Dinner would symbolize our renewed commitment as Virginia Democrats to fulfill Tim Kaine's promise and reject Virginia's racist past. 

There are countless praiseworthy Democrats featured in the history of Virginia and the United States from whom we can draw inspiration while honoring their achievements.  Renaming the JJ Dinner is both the right thing to do and a great opportunity for DPVA and local parties to create their own branding around the event.  For positive role models in this endeavor, we need look no further than the 8th District Democratic Committee, which chose the inspiring figures of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the honorees of their annual fundraising dinner.  And, in 2014, after multiple local parties renamed their events, the Florida state Democratic Party also renamed their JJ Dinner.  Making such a change would send the right message about what our Party represents and help generate excitement among all Democrats who care about the future of our Commonwealth and our nation.

When I call on DPVA and local parties throughout the Commonwealth to make this change, I know full well what I’m asking:  I chaired the Arlington County JJ Dinner for five years.  Let’s make this the last year that we, as Virginia Democrats, honor the shameful legacy of slavery and oppression.

  • campaignman

    The 2015 Democratic Party is more progressive than it has ever been.  This is a symbolically important change that would reflect that.

    Indeed, it would also be a great idea to select one or two women to use in replace of the names Jefferson and Jackson.  Here’s one we might choose.

    Lila Meade Valentine (1865-1921)

    Lila Meade Valentine was a suffragist, education reformer, and public-health advocate. During her abbreviated life, she played a vital role in creating and running organizations that improved the health-care and public school systems of her native city of Richmond. Valentine also became an ardent supporter of woman suffrage early in the 1900s, cofounding the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and serving as an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. A talented organizer and an eloquent speaker, Valentine led efforts on behalf of suffrage that came to fruition in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.  

  • lowkell

    How about we replace Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson with Wilma Mankiller, “Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and first elected female Chief of a Native nation in modern times.” And while we’re at it, how about we replace Thomas Jefferson (slave owner) with Harriett Tubman, “Born a slave, she fled North to freedom, later making 19 trips back to the South as an Underground Railroad conductor, leading some 300 slaves to freedom?”  The “Tubman-Mankiller” Dinner works for me. :)

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Sadly, the war in Vietnam has cast a shadow so dark that the domestic achievements of Lyndon Johnson are never celebrated enough. Every person over 65 who enjoys health care under Medicare can thank LBJ. Every Black American who can vote in the South and who can enjoy public accommodations without fear can thank LBJ. I do not think any other president could have gotten those programs through Congress even with the pressure brought by the civil rights movement, but LBJ as Senate majority leader for so long had influence in the legislative branch that was unparalleled. When he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he supposedly told Hubert Humphrey that he was signing away a whole generation of white southerners as Democratic voters. He was correct, but he signed anyway – an act of great political courage for a Texas-born politician.

    How about a Roosevelt (Franklin and Eleanor)-Johnson dinner? No, Vietnam rears its ugly head again, sadly.

  • InkedProfessor

    Agree with OP. I’d been thinking the same thing lately.

  • campaignman

    My thought was to select the names of Virginian women for our Virginian dinners.

    If we were to expand beyond that for the benefit of the party nationwide, we might want to include Teddy Roosevelt with Franklin and Eleanor, as well as honor Abraham Lincoln.  

    Our parties have changed positional places since the time Abe and Teddy were in the Republican party and their party no longer claims them.  We should because their values are the values of today’s Democratic party.

    Still, on a national basis, we could still choose just women, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman, for our iconic event.  Our male presidents have not lacked for things named after them after all.

  • Jameson

    The 2012 and 2013 events were called the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Dinners. The 2014 and 2015 events were called the Jefferson Jackson Dinners.

  • CADeminVA

    That it’s time for a change and J and J has to go.

    However, if you have to explain whom the dinner is named for, you are behind the curve. It should be instantly obvious.

    I suggest the Kennedy-Carter Dinner, rolls off the tongue, and you know who we’re talking about.