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A Reminder That Two Southern States Still Celebrate Robert E. Lee’s Birthday on MLK Day

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On Monday, when the rest of the country is taking the day off in commemoration of one of America’s civil rights heroes, the denizens of two states will get a remarkable choice: You can celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., or you can celebrate that of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In Mississippi and Alabama, those days are officially the same, and the civil rights icon and the commander of the Confederate army are celebrated jointly, as two equally noble characters of American history. In Alabama, Lee gets first billing. (Mississippi downplays Lee in official documents). The two states have celebrated Lee’s birthday since the 1800s and began celebrating King’s in 1983.

Many in those states who defend the decision to honor Lee with King do so by whitewashing Lee’s actions and beliefs. In building upon Lost Cause myths and narratives, Lee’s defenders portray him as a reluctant hero, an honorable man who........

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