MLK Day and Lee-Jackson Day celebrations coincide

Different events supporting Lee-Jackson Day and MLK Day struck a contrast over MLK weekend.


Members of Washington and Lee’s Chanoyu Tea Society prepare matcha tea to serve at their MLK Day ceremony. The event was part of a larger slate of activites the univeristy held in honor of MLK. Photo by Janet Ikeda Yuba.

Luke Fountain

Lexington saw two causes celebrated during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

A parade commemorating Lee-Jackson Day on Friday, Jan. 14 brought Confederate flags and other memorabilia to downtown Lexington. The event honored the life and legacy of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

The Stonewall Brigade Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans has organized the event for the past 24 years. 

While the state of Virginia no longer celebrates Lee-Jackson Day as a holiday, organizers of the event in Lexington said that the history of the two men must live on.

“Both of them are important to this area and the people of this region,” said Brandon Dorsey, a member of the Stonewall Brigade Camp, in an article for WSLS 10 News.

The events this year were smaller than previous years, with fewer crowds and people lining the streets of Lexington. In years past, Main Street has been packed with spectators waving flags.

The impending threat of snow and the COVID-19 virus were cited as the two most likely reasons for smaller celebrations.

Lee-Jackson Day events are usually countered by the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade, organized by CARE Rockbridge. However, the parade was canceled this year because of the snow.

There is some discussion about rescheduling the parade, possibly sometime in February to commemorate Black History Month.

The annual parade began in 2016 and has stood in contrast to what some consider to be a racist demonstration honoring Lee and Jackson’s legacy. 

CARE Rockbridge board member Fiorela Giraldo Prado de Lewis said that the parade is not necessarily meant to counter Lee-Jackson Day, but rather to “welcome communities that have often been forgotten.”

“The parade is meant to be welcoming and inclusive,” Lewis said. “One of our messages literally says, ‘Spread love, not hate.’”

While the parade was canceled, Washington and Lee held a week’s worth of programming surrounding MLK Day.

Some of those events included a talk by Yusef Salaam, an African Society charity benefit showcase and an MLK Day tea ceremony.

While some of the events that were meant to galvanize support for racial equity and honor the legacy of King were delayed due to the winter weather, others occurred without any issue.

“All the events carry out Dr. King’s legacy,” said CARE Rockbridge board member and student David Galvez, ’22.

These events come during a changing time in Lexington and Virginia more broadly. Stonewall Jackson Cemetery and Lee Chapel have been renamed in the past two years. They are now called Oak Grove Cemetery and University Chapel.

Additionally, Jackson’s statue on Virginia Military Institute’s campus, where he once taught, was removed in 2020. Most recently, in September 2021, Lee’s statue in Charlottesville was taken down after years of protest.