Mississippi honors Robert E. Lee on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is ridiculous and should stop

Many of Mississippi’s hot-button topics, the state flag and Confederate statues among them, revolve around the same familiar conflict. It’s not whether we should keep some parts of history and eliminate others, though that’s what some believe. It’s whether we should keep the ugliest pieces of our state’s history in places of reverence where the best pieces belong.

Prime example: Mississippi is one of two states that celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Robert E. Lee Day as a joint holiday.

There’s no denying Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee are both significant figures in American history. However, the reasons for that couldn’t be more at odds, and the implications of observing reverence for both men on the same holiday are troubling.

Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, and other lawmakers are currently championing a bill that would allow Lee’s birthday to be observed on the fourth Monday of January. The proposal comes a year after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson pushed through similar legislation separating the holidays in 2017. (Alabama is the only other state that maintains the joint holiday.)

Though the bill will undoubtedly be met with the same tired arguments about “erasing history,” it’s crucial to reinforce the single truth that lies at the root of every discussion about Mississippi’s past: Historical significance alone doesn’t determine whether something is deserving of public reverence.

We don’t need Confederate symbolism in our state flag to remember the Civil War any more than we need Confederate statues standing tall in our town squares to remind us how many people died in the devastating conflict. Learning from our history includes remembering why Mississippi seceded in the first place—a position “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” Learning from our history demands acknowledging that Mississippi’s ugly past didn’t end in 1865. Learning from our history requires reflection on King’s work at the forefront of the civil rights movement along with the failed efforts of those in Mississippi who tried to fight him every step of the way.

Maintaining a joint holiday not only dismisses King’s powerful life and legacy—it tells the world Mississippi considers him deserving of the same level of respect as a nation that would have kept him in shackles.

And if we ever want that narrative to change, we can start by rewriting it.

News

Two people killed after pickup truck, car collided on rural Mississippi highway

News

Woman wanted in South Carolina kidnapping arrested in Mississippi casino

News

Mississippi mother accused of child abuse, now faces capital murder charges in death of 5-month-old

News

Landscape architect accused of defrauding small Mississippi Delta town

News

Leaders of three Mississippi public universities secure new contracts totaling $2.2 million annually not including bonuses

News

Main Streets across Mississippi awarded for outstanding projects, promotions and business in 2024

News

Mississippi man accused of enticing child then using vehicle to strike utility vehicle occupied by child’s father

News

Mississippi reports first case of West Nile virus in 2024

News

Man found dead in his car after initiating chase with Mississippi police

News

Mississippi national park commemorates Juneteenth with luminaria display

News

Watermelon truck fully engulfed in flames keeps Mississippi firefighters busy

News

Manhunt for ‘armed and dangerous’ murder suspect under way from Oklahoma to Alabama

News

Mississippi man arrested, accused of stealing from construction site

News

Popular Mississippi catfish restaurant closes after report of rodents, wastewater leads to failing health inspection

News

Mississippi woman charged with murder of 2-year-old daughter who officials say was ‘forcibly drowned’

News

Mississippi police searching for group of males who attacked victim with bat, robbed him of money and then shot him multiple times

News

Mississippi officials looking for culprits after new outboard motor stolen from boat

News

Mississippi teen charged with rape and burglary after reported sexual assault

News

Mississippi postal worker ordered to repay $80,000 she stole from taxpayers

News

Mississippi man pleads guilty to making antisemitic calls to Pennsylvania Jewish businesses, synagogues

News

Prison safety concerns raised after report of inmate death shows Mississippi man had meth in system while behind bars

News

Three Mississippi teens killed in late night wreck, four others injured in two-vehicle crash

News

Small-town SCORE! New Chick-fil-A coming to Mississippi town with less than 5,000 people

News

15-year-old Mississippi girl arrested after she reportedly attacked sleeping mother with knife