‘Let’s give Dr. King his due’: Democratic lawmaker pushes to nix Robert E. Lee holiday

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As the state of Mississippi again officially honors the birth of Robert E. Lee on the same day as that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a state lawmaker is pushing to scrap the Lee celebration altogether.

Rep. Kabir Karriem

Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, sponsored a bill this session to remove the celebration of Lee, the Confederate Army’s general during the Civil War, from the list of official state holidays.

Mississippi and Alabama are the only two states to pair Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. holidays.

“I think we do Dr. King a disservice by celebrating Robert E. Lee on the same day,” Karriem told Mississippi Today. “It’s 2019. It’s time for us to look at that legislation and do away with Robert E. Lee Day altogether. Let’s give Dr. King his due as far as being the historical figure he is.”

Mississippi is littered with state-sponsored monuments to the Confederacy. The state also celebrates Confederate Memorial Day, which Karriem aims to remove in the same legislation. Confederate Memorial Day anchors Confederate Heritage Month, which the last four governors have signed annually since 1993.

The state flag is the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem. Dozens of Democratic lawmakers have aimed to change the state flag in recent years. None of those bills have been taken up by Republican leaders in committee.

This session, eight bills have been filed to change the design of the current state flag. Four bills have been filed to force entities receiving state funds to fly the state flag and be subject to penalty if they refuse. All eight of the state’s public universities and several of the state’s most populous cities and counties have stopped flying the state flag on public property.