So much for the New South.
That was a reaction elicited by a tweet posted by the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, Friday night which referred to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as "Great Americans Day" — an apparent attempt to also honor the birth of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
"Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day," read the tweet.
Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day.
— City of Biloxi (@CityofBiloxi) January 13, 2017
A backlash immediately ensued, with thousands of angry individuals taking to the city’s social media accounts to question why the Gulf Coast city didn’t refer to Monday as the federally-observed holiday named in honor of one of the most iconic civil rights leaders.
The city later edited a similarly-worded Facebook post, to describe "Great Americans Day" as "a state-named holiday."
But that assertion isn’t exactly the case: The list of state holidays on the government of Mississippi’s website does not list either Martin Luther King, Jr. Day nor "Great Americans Day." It does, however, cite the state’s observance of both King and Lee’s birthdays on the third Monday of January — without explicitly naming the day.
In fact, the genesis of "Great Americans Day" appears to stem from the municipal level: ABC affiliate WLOX reports that the name change was introduced to city council on Dec. 23, 1985, and approved on Dec. 31, 1985.
And the city of Biloxi echoed that sentiment in a hastily-written statement following the backlash:
"Biloxi Mayor Andrew ‘FoFo’ Gilich, responding to a flurry of comments about a city tweet today referring to Monday as ‘Great Americans Day,’ believes the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday should take steps to update the city’s Code of Ordinances to reflect the official federal name of the holiday, ‘Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,’ commonly known as ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day," read the statement.
Gilich says in the statement, "In my opinion that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday. This city’s longstanding support of our annual MLK celebrations speaks volumes about our support for this holiday. In fact, we’ve always celebrated this day as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day."
From Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich: "As far as I’m concerned, it’s called ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.’"
— City of Biloxi (@CityofBiloxi) January 14, 2017
The city’s statement also acknowledges that the city council did indeed pass a motion to honor other notable Americans. "The issue arose this afternoon when the city tweeted a one-line sentence that said non-emergency city offices would be closed on Monday ‘in observance of Great Americans Day," reads the statement.
It continues, "The name has since been traced back to a City Council on Dec. 23, 1985 to proclaim the third Monday of every January ‘to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.’"