MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama is one of just two states in the nation to recognize Confederate leader Robert E. Lee’s birthday on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In 2022, some Alabamians may be asking… why?
News 19 reached out to the Governor’s Office for a statement on why the holidays continue to be observed together and if there has been any movement on changing when Robert E. Lee Day is observed.
We were directed to contact state legislators on the issue — but did not receive a response.
Both men were born in mid-January. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, while Lee was born on January 19, 1807. The closeness in dates could be what warranted the recognition on the same day — but some say sharing the day with a Confederate leader insults King’s legacy.
In 2019, State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) told AP Robert E. Lee Day should be moved because “a lot of Black folks feels like it diminishes Martin Luther King’s day to put it on the same day as Robert E. Lee.”
A bill introduced by State Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) in 2020 would have separated the holidays. MLK Day would’ve remained in the same place and Robert E. Lee Day would’ve moved to the second Monday in October. Lee died on October 12, 1870.
Robert E. Lee Day is just one of the three Confederate-related state holidays in Alabama. The state also observes Confederate Memorial Day in April and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s birthday in June.
Alabama also has more than 120 monuments commemorating the Confederacy.
In 2017, Governor Kay Ivey signed The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act into law, effectively ending any chance of removing a Confederate monument from public property if it’s more than 40 years old. The bill came after multiple cities across the United States began removing statues of Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The only other state in the union to recognize Robert E. Lee Day at the same time as Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Mississippi.