July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

3 min read
The Lorraine Motel / National Civil Rights Museum (Hankering for History Original Photo)

The Lorraine Motel / National Civil Rights Museum (Hankering for History Original Photo)

The third Monday in January is commonly known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Martin Luther King Day, or my favorite MLK Day. What you might not know is that many states clump this holiday with their own state’s holiday(s).

The Lorraine Motel / National Civil Rights Museum (Hankering for History Original Photo)
The Lorraine Motel / National Civil Rights Museum
(Hankering for History Original Photo)

For instance, today is Lee–Jackson–King Day in Virginia. The state of Virginia uses this day to celebrate not only the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., but also the memories of Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson. This is not  an uncommon practice across the nation. There are several states that have decided that today is not only for Dr. King. In the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and  Mississippi, today is a day to celebrate the birth of Robert E. Lee. Whether these southern states intended it as an actual day of remembrance, along with the remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., or just an opportunity to spit in the face of the holiday by clumping together an African-American civil rights leader and a General–if victorious– who would have kept King’s people in chains for decades, is unbeknownst to me.

However, there are states who are in the spirit of what King stood for and have marked this day not only as a celebration for Dr. King, but for what he stood for. In Arizona and New Hampshire, today is Civil Rights Day, and in Idaho, it is it Human Rights Day.

This not a post to talk about his excellent work as a non-violence civil rights leader or his expertise in civil disobedience.

This is not a post to call out Dr. King as a plagiarist or an adulterous man; we all fall short.

This is to remind everyone from where we have come, as a nation. I myself was not alive during the civil rights era, but from what I have read and seen, I believe that America is in a better place than it was fifty years ago. Well, maybe not financially, but with today being the second Presidential Inauguration of America’s first black president, you have to admit that America has become more egalitarian.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was such a devastating blow to America’s value system that flags across the nation were lowered to half mast. Wall Street closed for the first time in its history for a private citizen.  Even George Wallace, one of America’s most notorious segregationist, described the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a “senseless, regrettable act.” (Of course, some would argue that he only regretted not being able to pull the trigger himself…)

I think it was said best by Gandhi, when she stated,

“[King’s assassination] is a setback to mankind’s search for light. Violence removed one of the great men of the world.” – Indira Gandhi

Boycott the National Civil Rights Museum?
Boycott the National Civil Rights Museum?

I took the opportunity to go by the Lorraine Motel (Now the National Civil Rights Museum) to pay my respects to Martin Luther King. The museum is currently in the middle of making major renovations to the museum/motel. I was a little surprised by what I saw. Read the banner to the right.

Do people really think that the National Civil Rights Museum is here to “celebrate death and violence?” The National Civil Rights Museum’s website has the following on their website as its mission:

“… the Museum exists to assist the public in understanding the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact and influence on human rights movements worldwide, through its collections, exhibitions, research and educational programs.”

How could you even confuse the two? I understand that $27 million could provide good elsewhere, but come on. There is no way that anyone can actually believe that the museum was established to “celebrate death and violence.”

On a side note, I just finished Hellhound on his Trail, a National Bestseller about the assassination of Dr. King. Check out my book review on it!

12 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

  1. Whether these southern states intended it as an actual day of remembrance, along with the remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., or just an opportunity to spit in the face of the holiday by clumping together an African-American civil rights leader and a General–if victorious– who would have kept King’s people in chains for decades, is unbeknownst to me.

    Exactly! Furthermore, I don’t know if these slave-hankering southerners always intended to impregnate their sisters or whether it came as a complete surprise. It’s just one of those things I don’t suppose we can ever know.

    1. Ha ha, I like the usage of ‘hankering.’ If I remember correctly, you originally hail from Martin Luther’s hometown, (really southern) Atlanta, Georgia. I guess it is a good thing that you didn’t have a sister…

  2. It is nice to see that your tolerance of us Southern, Blble-thumping, gun-toting people is so well pronounced here. Aside from the snide remarks and derision of Southerners, I wonder if you might take a little time to look at the combination of holidays objectively as opposed to simply assuming it was a “slap in the face”. During the counsels of Nicea and Constantine many of the Pagan holidays were integrated with Christian beliefs. Are you spitting in the face of Christians or Pagans when you celebrate Christmas? Are you spitting on Christ when you celebrate Easter, Esther, goddess of fertility? Is it not at least possible that the addition of holidays that would appeal to the Southerners as well as to the MINORITY of racists who hail from the South was intended in much the same way so as to expand the celebrations while minimizing any potential conflicts?

    That being said, while I do believe I would have disagreed with MLK on some of his personal choices, I greatly admire what he was able to accomplish. As was previously and rightly noted, we all fall short and we are all trapped equally in this world that we may all be judged equally and mine is not to judge. It is difficult to fathom how anybody could actually believe that the civil rights movement is in any way a celebration of death or violence. The only violence was committed by Southern democrats who wish to continue the oppression that began with the riots in New Orleans shortly after the war of Northern Aggression. I would surmise that this group, and no, I would not even grant them the courtesy of visiting their website given such lack of tact or diplomacy by posting such drivel in public, has likely lost funding somewhere else and still feels “entitled” to the money that the Civil Rights Museum has gotten one way or another. This does bring up an interesting point of contention however.

    While it may be emotionally gratifying to get the government to implement social welfare programs, have we taken it to the point where it does more harm than good? I admit, I never understood the jokes between my Grandfather and Blue’s family during the holiday get togethers. Blue was the maintenance man who took care of my Grandfather’s home and they used to laugh and joke about them being able to use the front door. I do know I spent a great deal of time with him as the house did need substantial repairs. He taught me many things about crafts but also about life and about work and even ethics. Had someone spoken with him about abandoning his family or going on welfare, I have no doubts that he would have reacted … violently perhaps. However, these days, we have created what seems to be an overly dependent class who expects help to simply survive, not to get a hand up, not as a means of support in between jobs, but as an actual “livelihood” if you will. I know many families back home whose families have been on welfare for three generations now and few, if any have ever actively sought to work harder at school or to even get out and look for a “real job”. Now I post that because I grew up in the poorest part of the nation in the Appalachian Mountains in West “By God” Virginia. Those able bodied persons who were on welfare actually had to go to work for the state road most often, but there were other options as well, but despite this, for many of them, it is a better alternative than actually working to improve their lives. For those of you who may believe this to be a racist observation somehow, please bear in mind that yes, I did grow up around many of those racists and the people of whom I speak are most definitely challenged when it comes to levels of melanin.

  3. Thanks for stopping by the site Mark.

    1) I was born, raised, and still live in Memphis, Tennessee, my father is a professor at a prominent theological seminary university, and I work for a security company… if anyone falls under the genre of “Southern, Blble-thumping, gun-toting people,” it would be me. I don’t see anything wrong with laying out the idea that it could be either or… There was a segment on local news about MLK Day being Robert E. Lee Day as well; people are generally curious about it.

    2) “…have we taken it to the point where it does more harm than good?” Well of course. America, being the country with the largest GDP, should not have the poverty problem that it does. I am completely against handouts, there definitely needs to be a happy-medium. There is a difference between a single mother that works two jobs and still has problems providing vs a stoner that doesn’t want to get a job so he rides out unemployment.

  4. I am a Northerner married to a Southerner, and it has opened my eyes to the prejudice there is against Southerners. However, I didn’t get that sense of prejudice from this post at all. When I first found out several years ago that MLK Day is King-Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia, I thought at first it was a joke. Then I was horrified. Now I am curious. I think it can only help Virginians to learn that other people DO see this joint holiday as a sneer, commentary, or “spit in the face” against Civil Rights, even if it is not meant that way. We have all said or written things that had consequences that we didn’t mean. It is much more hurtful when an entire state does it.

    1. To some extent it makes sense. The birthdays of King-Lee-Jackson are January 15, 19, and 21; respectively. It would not be the first time that a holiday took multiple birthdays to form one holiday. President’s Day was originally Washington’s Day, but as Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday were so close together, it has become Presidents Day, a day to remember Washington, Lincoln, and all other presidents.

      That being said, clumping presidents together is like “two peas in a pod” whereas Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King would be like combining oil and water–they aren’t going to blend well together.

      Thanks for stopping by the site!

  5. As someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses, I can see both sides of this. On one hand it is logical to combine them since the birthdays are close, but as you say, it’s “oil & water.” Still, what the holidays are for is to acknowledge our history and recognize it as important and part of what we have become because it IS our history. All those leaders and what they represent show our complex and connected past. We have to share all sides of our story to understand our past.

  6. While I currently reside in upstate NY, I was in Arkansas when the legislature debated and passed the Robert E. Lee day. As an elementary school student we even met Orville Faubus on a school trip and talked with him about whether his oil painting on the conference room wall really looked enough like him. If I had the time I would love to research whether the Little Rock black community leaders (a strong and vocal group of leaders) have made any effort to repeal the silly idea of having a day to offset King. It is my clear memory that the Lee honor was more about resentment of being forced to honor King. I am working now to produce a documentary about race relations. If I raise enough funds through crowd funding I will budget to travel back to Little Rock and also budget to shoot at The Lorraine Motel. My question is not so much about what happened in ’57 or when they stupidly honored Lee… but who is doing what about it now.

  7. I am glad that there is someone out there that vividly remembers the establishment of the holiday due to “resentment.”

    Good luck on the documentary. Just a heads ups, make sure you check with the National Civil Rights Museum about their construction at The Lorraine Motel. You’d hate to get down there and be stuck shooting a construction site…

  8. Thanks for bringing this issue of dual/triple holidays to our attention. But you need to make a small correction because Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Nehru and not related to Mahatma Gandhi. So put her full name in the sentence introducing the quote–and change “he” to “she.” This mistake, I suspect, reflects your youth but sends up a red flag to us foggies who were alive during the Civil Rights era and while Indira Gandhi was prime minister of India.

    1. Unfortunately, there is an error here; however, it is just a typo. I have several references to both Indria and Mahatma throughout my site–with their proper pronouns.

      That being said…I don’t want to confuse those that don’t know, so thank you for bringing this error to my attention so that I can fix it!

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