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.
Part of that, he said, involved making peace with monuments and references to Lee and Jackson, which seem to exist on nearly every block. John Leland, a retired English professor who taught at Washington and Lee and the Virginia Military Institute, remembers walking into the Robert E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church for the first time.