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The city of Biloxi, Mississippi, faced backlash after publishing notices that it would be observing "Great Americans Day" on the third Monday of January — more widely known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The city’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts announced on Friday that Biloxi’s non-emergency municipal offices would be closed on Monday “in observance of Great Americans Day,” which is also the federal holiday celebrating the birth of the nation’s most celebrated civil rights hero.
The posts have since been deleted.
According to a statement released by the city’s mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, the origin of "Great Americans Day" was traced back to a December 1985 City Council decision that proclaimed the third Monday of every January would “honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of the country.”
Gilich said he believed the city’s Code of Ordinances should be updated.
“In my opinion,” Gilich said in a late Friday evening statement, “that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday.”
The mayor did not address who wrote the social media posts and why they chose to reference "Great Americans Day” rather than the notable federal holiday. Biloxi celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year with a large parade — an event the mayor himself noted.
“This city’s longstanding support of our annual MLK celebrations speaks volumes about our support for this holiday,” the mayor added in his statement. “In fact, we’ve always celebrated this day as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
Mississippi, along with Alabama and Arkansas, also celebrate Robert E. Lee Day on the third Monday in January as well. Lee led the Confederate forces during the Civil War.
Users on social media were vocal about their opinion of Biloxi’s reference to "Great Americans Day."
Gilich had the city’s Twitter account respond on his behalf.
Biloxi holds a large Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade every year. This year, the parade will include a program of speakers and a battle of the bands. The theme of Biloxi’s parade this year parade is “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
A city spokesman said it was a call to community action.
“We are reflecting on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said city spokesman Gordon Jackson. “We want to encourage people to take a cause of action in their lives to make a positive difference in the community.”