KKK Fliers Found on MLK Day -- Or Is it Robert E. Lee Day?

Categories: History
Robert E Lee 1863.jpg
Robert E. Lee's 1863 portrait.
Residents in several neighborhoods in Sedalia, Missouri, found fliers promoting the Ku Klux Klan on Monday morning, which happened to be the observed holiday to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who was born January 15, 1929.

But three states -- Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas -- also celebrate the life and legacy of General Robert E. Lee on the third Monday in January, because that's close to his birthday, January 19, 1807. (Digression: Lee was born in Virginia, and yet that state doesn't officially celebrate the holiday. Discuss.) Unofficially, the KKK upholds the tradition of honoring Robert E. Lee regardless of where their members are located, hence the flier drop on Monday. If you're so inclined, you can dig up some example fliers online, but it's not recommended. (N.B., there are no guarantees on what happens to your computer or your self esteem if you download that flier yourself.) KKK members probably enjoy the subversive nature of honoring a Confederate hero on a day dedicated to a black man, but I don't pretend to understand the pleasures white supremacists derive from their actions.

Questions of race aside, the idea of commemorating the supreme military commander of the Confederate army and the supreme leader of the nonviolent Civil Rights movement on the same day seems incongruous, especially on an official level. It's important to remember that the Civil War was only four years of Lee's life. After the war, Lee applied for an official government amnesty, which was denied him by President Andrew Jackson JOHNSON (thanks, commenter Billy), a man who knew how to hold a grudge. Lee spent his later years urging peaceful reconciliation between the North and South, trying to heal the rifts that lingered after the war -- MLK and Lee had some peace-making tendencies in common after all.

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Pelagius
Pelagius

Robert E. Lee's legacy will forever be tainted by the fact that, despite his initial opposition to secession and his clear misgivings about the Confederacy, he ultimately championed that cause which is inescapably tied to slavery.  But there is ample evidence that the man himself had a more progressive view on matters of race than most Southerners (and many Northerners as well).  While his family did own slaves, he supported his wife in setting up an illegal school for slaves on their plantation and he freed many (though not all) of those slaves in 1862, while the war was in its early stages.  After the war, when he was president of Washington College (now Washington & Lee), the General repeatedly expelled students who had attacked black citizens and he worked to establish a state-funded school for African Americans.  There is also an apocryphal story about how after the war he attended a church service at which a newly-freed black man was the first to approach the altar for communion and, scandalized, the white congregants refused to come forward - until Robert E. Lee set an example by going up and kneeling beside him.

As with so many people in American history, General Lee should be seen as a very complex figure.  He was undoubtedly flawed, but he was also a man of character and grace who deserved much of the admiration with which his contemporaries (both Northern and Southern) viewed him.  It is a dreadful shame that racists have co-opted his memory.

Halfricans
Halfricans

Which half of a black is African and which half is American? I can never tell just by looking at them.

Ugly_black_racism_sucks
Ugly_black_racism_sucks

I agree the way racists smear him as a black hater are reprehensible. Isn't it time we stamp out all the black racism in America. I mean c'mon how many more decades are Whites going to stand by as they're vicously attacked by racism in this country.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Before MLK Day gained full Federal status and it was recognized on a state to state level Dallas County, TX had an interesting twist. County employees had an option day that week. You could take Monday off for MLK Day or Friday off for RELee birthday (a/k/a Confederate Hero’s Day), but not both. The Irony was not lost on a lot of people.      

Cheese-N-Crackaz
Cheese-N-Crackaz

It should be noted that in today's AmeriKwa, if you have White skin you should continuously gaze down to avoid making eye contact with anyone, you should shuffle your feet and walk stoop shouldered so it is apparent that you feel guilty for everyone else's failures.

Williamrowanuk
Williamrowanuk

I WOULD JUST LIKE TO TELL YOU THAT A LOT OF ULSTER ;;NORTHERN IRELAND;PEOPLE CELEBRATE ROBERT E LEE DAY; IVE MY CONFEDERATE FLAG FLYING OUTSIDE MY HOME TO AKNOWLEDGE WHAT A GREAT MAN HE WAS THERE IS A LOT OF EUROPEANS SUPPORT HIS BIRTHDAY MORE THAN ONE THINKS

Billy
Billy

"After the war, Lee applied for an official government amnesty, which was denied him by President Andrew Jackson, a man who knew how to hold a grudge."

Andrew Jackson had been dead for two decades by the time the war ended.

Paul Friswold
Paul Friswold

Thanks, Billy. I fixed it up above. Speed kills, especially when typing.

your mom's mom
your mom's mom

This is the tell that it's actually an Onion article.

Libs_Smell_Like_Ass
Libs_Smell_Like_Ass

Far less offensive then the amount of Black on White crimes committed across the nation on the same day.

Coretta
Coretta

ashes to ashesdust to dustif he kept his black outa memphishe'd still be here with us.

William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman

Sad that so many hillbillies still think it's cool and trendy to be a white supremacist. Thems a smart bunch of fellers.

Krispy Kreme Klan
Krispy Kreme Klan

Hmm, I wonder if any the lurking racist troll commentor on the RFTblog or stltoday had a hand in this.  Probably not.  After all that would require them to go outside and have the courage to expose their beliefs to public scrutiny.

Krispy Kreme Klan
Krispy Kreme Klan

Hmmmm, I wonder if any of the lurking racist commentor trolls on the RFT blog or stltoday.com had a hand in this.  Probably not.  After all that would require them to go outside and have the courage to expose their beliefs to the public.

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