MLK Parade Divides a Virginia Town

LEXINGTON, Va. — For years, the weekend leading up to the observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has been overshadowed here by a celebration and a parade honoring two Confederate generals whose birthdays fall within days of the civil rights icon’s: Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

But this year, a group seeking to march in honor of King obtained the sole permit available on Saturday, the day that a Lee-Jackson parade is typically held.

After a presidential election that has left the country sharply divided and emotions raw, some people in the town feared the worst, with town officials warning of “unintended consequences” if the King parade went ahead. But on Saturday, both groups held peaceful observances.

“It did not feel like we were doing something that radical,” said one King parade organizer, Florentien Verhage, a professor of philosophy who teaches at Washington and Lee University.

Frederick Hand

Frederick Hand

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