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The origins of Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia

An explanation of the history behind the controversial holiday and how it could soon be a thing of the past.

RICHMOND, Va. — The origins of the holiday date back over 100 years. The Virginia General Assembly designated Confederate General Robert E. Lee's birthday as a holiday back in 1890, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch

In 1904, the Assembly made the holiday Lee-Jackson Day, to honor another Confederate general, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. 

Then 80 years later President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing a national holiday to celebrate civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The following year the Virginia Legislature combined King's celebration with the state's holiday honoring the two Confederate generals, forming the incongruous "Lee-Jackson-King Day."

In 2000, those two celebrations were separated.

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Since then, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on the third Monday in January, while Lee-Jackson Day falls on the preceding Friday.

Celebrating Confederate generals continues to be a controversial topic. Locally, Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton choose not to observe the holiday. 

Gov. Ralph Northam has even proposed eliminating it entirely and make Election Day a state holiday. Norfolk Delegate Joseph Lindsey has introduced a bill in the current session (HB 108) to do just that.

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