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Conn. Dems To Change Fundraiser Dinner Name

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

 The Connecticut Democratic Party is changing the name of its annual fundraiser, the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner. That’s because two of the dinner’s namesakes, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, were slave-owners.

Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby said the party’s state central committee voted unanimously this week to change the name.

"I want to be clear. This isn’t an indictment of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy. Rather, it’s an opportunity for the Connecticut Democratic Party to reflect the progressive vision we put forward for this party and for this state," he said.

Before the vote, Democratic state chair Nick Balletto said the party should change the name of the dinner because of a shooting in South Carolina in June. In that shooting, nine black people were killed in an historic African-American Church in Charleston. That’s led to a national movement to remove symbols of white supremacy and historical reminders of slavery.

Scot X. Esdaile, chair of the Connecticut NAACP, asked Balletto to consider changing the name. He noted the national Democratic Party historically supported slavery.

"The Democratic party has a very dark cloud over them in reference to their history with slavery," Esdaile said. "It’s very heartwarming to know that the current leadership in the state of Connecticut is doing the right thing. They’re striving to right their wrongs with the past."

The party asked committee members to make suggestions for the dinner’s new name. Balletto suggested several 20th-century Democratic presidents, or Connecticut Governors William O’Neill and Ella Grasso. Esdaile has his own suggestion.

"Obama," he said.

The party says it expects to choose a name by this fall.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.