Va. students object to Martin Luther King Jr. Day classes

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Washington and Lee University will hold classes Monday over the objections of David Knoespel and some of his law school classmates, who unsuccessfully petitioned their institution to shut down for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

They are concerned, in part, that the day commemorating King will be overshadowed by events three days later to mark the birthday of Robert E. Lee.

The proximity of the two occasions poses a particular challenge for Virginia and for the university in Lexington named in equal parts for the founding father and the Confederate commander. Lee served as the school’s president after the Civil War and set it on a course toward national prestige in the liberal arts.

For more than a decade after the 1986 advent of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Virginians celebrated the births of the civil rights icon and Confederate generals Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on the same day. (Jackson, too, was born in mid-January.) In 2000, Lee-Jackson-King Day was split into two holidays, one for the generals on a Friday, the other for the civil rights leader on the following Monday....

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