Two states, Mississippi and Alabama, wrap the birthday anniversaries of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee into one holiday. This year the holiday is today, which, as it happens, is King’s actual birthday (DOB: January 15, 1929).
Since 1986, when the federal government established the third Monday of January as a holiday solely in honor of King, a number of states have snubbed it in various ways.
It was not until 2000, when Utah fell into line, that all fifty states designated the holiday specifically in King’s name. New Hampshire, for example, celebrated it for several years as “Fast Day.”
This year marks the first time that Arkansas is observing the holiday in undiluted fashion rather than as a combined King-Lee event. The state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, signed legislation ten months ago uncoupling the official birthday observances of the two men.
But Alabama and Mississippi still honor both jointly, however odd the match-up may seem — particularly at a time when the veneration of Confederate symbols is under intense scrutiny. Which is not to say that King and Lee have nothing in common. King shares an astrological sign, Capricorn, with Lee (DOB: January 19, 1807).