In the 1980s as a national effort was made to establish a holiday for civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., the Mississippi Legislature struck an unusual compromise as many other states did at the time.

The compromise was to honor King, recognized universally as the leader of the fight to end racial discrimination in Mississippi and in other primarily Southern states, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day. That holiday will be recognized on Monday.

State Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, said he believes it is time that King had the holiday to himself. He has introduced legislation, like he has since coming to the state House in 2016, to remove Lee from the holiday.

“Mississippi needs to move into the future,” said Karriem. “We have changed the state flag (to eliminate the Confederate battle emblem from the design). This is the next logical step.”

Karriem said only Mississippi and Alabama still honor Lee and King on the same day.

In addition, the legislation would eliminate the state holiday of Confederate Memorial Day, which is held on the last Monday in April.

“The bill has never gotten out of committee even though I file it ever year,” said Karriem. “But a lot of the bills filed by Democrats do not get out of committee.”

Karriem said the legislation has multiple co-sponsors, but no white member of the House has signed on as a co-sponsor.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.