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Renewed effort to drop Confederate general from King-Lee holiday

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 8:19 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The third Monday in January is a federal holiday, celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Alabama, the holiday is commemorated as King-Lee Day, also memorializing Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Alabama and Mississippi are the only states that still celebrate both King and Lee together. If it’s up to state Representative Chris England, this will be the last year the holiday is split.

“I don’t know many people who would put Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert E. Lee in the same sentence, much less honor them on the same day,” England said. “I think it makes sense as Alabamians and Americans to separate those two and give Martin Luther King his due.”

England is sponsoring HB60 to drop Lee from the state calendar. He stresses this is not an attempt to erase history; instead, put it in the proper perspective.

“We can’t choose history, we can’t choose the effects history has had on us and we also can’t deny the legacy some of these things like slavery and the Confederacy have had,” he explained. “But we can choose who we praise, we can choose who we designate with the distinct honor of giving them a holiday.”

This bill is filed as the state tackles the difficult subject of how to educate children about the significance of slavery and the fight for equality in the deep south. England says passing this bill would serve as a step forward toward racial reconciliation in Alabama.

“In history, most of the time the winners tell the story, but in Alabama the losers do,” England added. “Despite the fact the Confederacy lost, they often control the narrative here. I think it says a lot about Alabama that despite the tailwinds blowing in the opposition direction, we still hold on to that history. We need to exorcise those demons, some of the best ways to do that is get rid of Jefferson Davis’s holiday, separate MLK and Robert E. Lee.”

It’s unclear whether HB60 will have opposition. England says it shouldn’t be an election year issue.

“I can’t imagine anybody who’s standing for re-election would be afraid to tell their constituency that these two don’t belong on the same day,” responded England. “I’m pretty sure you’ll see many Republican legislators and congressmen tweeting Martin Luther King quotes today. I want to make sure the folks in Alabama understand we can put our money where our mouth is and truly honor him by establishing a day just for him.”

England also sponsored HB58, which moves to eliminate Jefferson Davis’s birthday, which is commemorated in Alabama on June 7. The state’s third confederate holiday, Confederate Memorial Day, is April 25.

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