Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday, seems to be overshadowed in some southern states. Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi still celebrate the birthday of the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day. When searching for the hours of public offices, for example a public library, over this holiday weekend in Arkansas, one may be met with a notice that says, "Monday: Robert E. Lee's Birthday -- hours may differ." It seems that both holidays are recognized by local governments, but one takes precedent over the other. State recognition of Robert E.

Lee's birthday and MLK Jr. Day has been a sore topic for many years in the South.

General Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee was a Confederate General during the American Civil War from 1862-1865. He served as a distinguished officer in the United States Army for 32 years before joining his home state of Virginia after its secession from the Union. Lee is said to have been opposed to slavery even before the Civil War began. In a letter to wife, Mary Anna Lee, in 1856, he stated, "Slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country." His stance on the issue is up for debate, as he led many campaigns to capture Free Blacks during the Civil War to be enslaved in the South. In the same letter, he stated, "The painful discipline that they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race." Arkansas declared Lee's birthday an official holiday back in 1947.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. is widely known as one of the most popular Civil Right Activists of the 1960's. His assassination in 1968 left the Civil Rights Movement shaken. It took 15 years for the United States to officially recognize his birthday as a national holiday. A bill to recognize this holiday was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

It has since been a subject of extreme controversy. Most southern states already had Lee's birthday established as a holiday around the same time. Businesses did not want to give two holidays off of work this close together. This caused some states to make the decision to combine both birthdays into one day.

The extreme opposing views of these two men have left many people confused about why their birthdays would be celebrated together.

Many question why Lee's birthday is still being celebrated by any branch of the government, federal or local. With the recent removal of the Confederate flag from all government branches, whether or not Robert E. Lee's birthday will remain a state holiday in the years to come is up for debate.

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