Since 1983, the third Monday of January is recognized as a federal holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. In the state of Alabama, that same day is also recognized as Robert E. Lee Day. Grappling with this simultaneous celebration, and the state’s complex civil rights history, is Blake Busbin – director of social studies education for the Alabama State Department of Education. Blake grew up in Atlanta and, as a child, would visit the plantation owned and operated by his ancestors during the Civil War. He earned his undergraduate, master’s, Ph.D. AND a certificate in Education, Instructional and Curriculum Supervision from Auburn University, from which both of his parents also graduated. Furthermore, Blake’s 15 years in the classroom was spent at Auburn High School.
So how does someone with this deep Southern heritage become responsible for and passionate about helping teachers and students reconsider narratives about the long Civil Rights movement that can seem embedded in the culture? That, according to him, has been an interesting progression.