Like many random things I see on the internet, the flyer below seemed like it could have been a gag that someone whipped up on Microsoft Word, took a snapshot of, and circulates every year just to rile up folks’ racial sensitivities for a cheap joke.

So we’re supposed to celebrate a man who fought to keep black people enslaved on the same day we celebrate MLK? I’ve never heard of such a thing! I had to wonder, are there people out there still so steadfastly attached to the Civil War that they would declare what we all know is Martin Luther King Day as both a celebration of the civil rights leader and of Robert E. Lee, the great Southern hero of the Civil War?

The answer is yes, and no. Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi all celebrate Robert E. Lee’s birthday as a state holiday, and depending on which date Martin Luther King Day falls, both might be observed on the same day. The celebration of Lee’s contribution to Southern history pre-dates Martin Luther King completely, having been first observed in 1943. So this sign is probably the real deal. But it’s hard to ignore the pro-Confederacy culture in these states that allows for the reverence of a man who was literally on the losing side of history, and that’s what shocks me.

I’m not from the South and have limited experience with it, so please enlighten me…other than simply wanting to return to “the good old days” when the South thrived because of a slavery economy and black folks knew their place (i.e. a racist undercurrent), is there a legitimate allure to notions of the Confederacy today?



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