LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he supported a senate bill that would separate Robert E. Lee Day from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a news conference on Wednesday (March 1).
Senate Bill 519 would move recognition for Robert E. Lee from the third Monday in January to the second Saturday in October. The third Monday in January is designated as the remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Rep. Grant Hodges and Sen. Dave Wallace filed the education bill on Tuesday (Feb. 28).
In addition to moving the remembrance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday to October, the bill would also require the state department of education to develop curriculum to teach students about the historical contributions of African Americans starting in the 2018-2019 school year.
The lessons, which would be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year, would focus on civilian and military leadership during the American Civil War period, as well as looking at how the lessons of that era can inform contemporary society. They would also emphasize the contributions of American civil rights leaders like King.
Hutchinson thanked the NAACP for their support of the measure during the conference. He also outlined why he thought the measure was important, saying that having both remembrances on the same day gave people a choice of which to celebrate.
“Whenever that holiday was adopted, we in essence gave the people of Arkansas a choice,” Hutchinson said. “We said, ‘You can celebrate the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, or you can remember on the same day General Robert E. Lee.’ As you come up to the state capital on that particular holiday, you see both names that are placed as the reason for the closing of the capital and these offices.”
Hutchinson said King has a legacy that should not only be celebrated by African Americans, but by all Americans.
You can watch the full press conference below: