No, President’s Day in Alabama does not honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

Officially, at least according to the U.S. government, today is the holiday commemorating the birthday of George Washington. The first president was born on Feb. 22, 1732, with the federal government’s holiday known as Washington’s Birthday marked each year on the third Monday in February, no matter the date.

For most of the country, today is simply Presidents Day (no apostrophe, please) a time to honor all those who have served as the country’s chief executive. If specific presidents are named in state declarations, it is most commonly Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States who saw the country through the Civil War.

And that’s where things get sticky, at least in Alabama, where old wounds die hard.

Alabama’s official Presidents Day holiday omits Lincoln and honors Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, a Virginian, was the third U.S. president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. His birthday is in April, unlike Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12.

Alabama is one of only two states to add someone other than Lincoln to its holiday lineup with the other being Arkansas, where today is Washington’s birthday and Daisy Bates Day. Bates was a civil rights activist who played a central role in the integration of Little Rock’s Center High School in 1957.

READ MORE: Alabama 1 of 2 states to combine Martin Luther King Jr. Day with holiday honoring Confederacy

History of Presidents Day

The idea of a day to honor Washington dates back to the 1870s when Sen. Steven Wallace Dorsey proposed adding the president’s birthday – Feb. 22 – to the list of existing national holidays. President Rutherford B. Hayes made it official, signing the federal law in 1879 to honor Washington.

It was after the Civil War by this point, however, and many Northern states added Lincoln, who was assassinated by a Southern sympathizer on April 15, 1865, to their official celebrations.

Southern states didn’t follow along and still don’t. No state that was part of the Confederacy mentions Lincoln by name as part of its Presidents Day holiday.

South Carolina celebrates Washington’s Birthday/Presidents Day; Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia commemorate George Washington Day; no holiday is observed in Florida, North Carolina or Louisiana; and Texas and Tennessee have Presidents Day.

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