- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A proposal filed Tuesday to remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Arkansas would also require the state to expand what is taught about the civil rights movement and the Civil War in the public schools.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office said the measure details the Republican’s vow to give the slain civil rights leader his own holiday. Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi are the only states that commemorate Lee and King on the same day.

“Education is a key component of this legislation and of course it maintains what the governor has committed to all along and that is separating the two days,” spokesman J.R. Davis said.

An effort to remove Lee from the King holiday repeatedly failed before a House committee two years ago after opponents said it belittled the state’s Civil War history. The history requirements are aimed at addressing those concerns, a co-sponsor of the measure said.

“With this bill we’re saying we are going to make sure our young people are learning about our history, both our civil rights and the Civil War,” GOP Rep. Grant Hodges said.

The measure designates the second Saturday in October as a state memorial day in honor of Lee that would be commemorated by gubernatorial proclamation. Some black lawmakers have expressed reservation about setting aside another day for Lee, saying that should be addressed in separate legislation.

The Legislative Black Caucus generally supports giving King the holiday to himself and is reviewing the bill, said Democratic Rep. Vivian Flowers, who chairs the caucus.

Arkansas has had a holiday in honor of Lee since 1947 and one for King since 1983. That year, agencies required state employees to choose which two holidays they wanted off: King’s birthday on Jan. 15, Lee’s birthday on Jan. 19 or the employee’s birthday. In 1985, the Legislature voted to combine holidays.

Supporters of ending the dual holiday include the city of Little Rock and Pulaski County, which passed resolutions last year endorsing the move. The 2015 effort to end the dual holiday was fueled in part by photos widely circulated on social media of a sign noting the shared King and Lee day.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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