President’s Day was initially created to honor the first U.S. president, George Washington’s, birthday. It eventually was expanded to include former President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and in a contemporary sense is viewed as a day of observation for all former U.S. presidents. Now, as critical race theory in public education remains a politically divisive concept, activists and historians across social media urge people to think of today through a more analytical lens.
President’s Day comes in the middle of Black History Month, and several of the presidents honored today were complicit in the active oppression of Black and Indigenous people. Specifically, former President Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, and historians later discovered his frequent assault of a woman named Sally Hemmings.
This Presidents’ Day I wanted to remind you… that Thomas Jefferson was a pedophile and a rapist, who enslaved his own children. Thomas once bragged to George Washington (another proud enslaver) how much money he made from owning enslaved people. pic.twitter.com/NeT8auHhJO
— Maurice W (@iamMauriceW) February 20, 2023
Others took note of President Lilcoln’s true legacy. Lincoln is known for reuniting a nation torn apart by civil war. While he was an abolitionist who never owned slaves and was responsible for his administration’s issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, he set up an infrastructure that would continue to oppress Black Americans. He was considered more of a centrist on abolition, which is sometimes not covered in public education.
On today’s federal holiday, even some contemporary politicians have posted factually inaccurate or explosive claims. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted what was essentially a call for national secession, which is ironically what former President Lincoln worked to end during his Civil War-era presidency being honored today.
The placement of today’s federal holiday during Black History Month was food for thought across Twitter today.
Does anybody ever think about how ironic and weird it is that President's day is during black history month
— Aston Mack (@mack_aston) February 20, 2023
Founding fathers and older presidents are not the only names trending today. Many honor former President Jimmy Carter, who entered hospice care several days ago. Carter is the oldest living U.S. president at 98 years old.
On this Presidents Day, visitors are touring Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm on the outskirts of Plains. He used to walk along the train tracks behind with a basket full of boiled peanuts to sell in town. On a good day, he’d earn a dollar after the six-mile round trip. #gapol pic.twitter.com/drGDDyhxod
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) February 20, 2023
????(1/3) The King Center staff and I join the nation in prayer for our former governor, state senator, and our nation's 39th President, Jimmy Carter. I consider him a friend as did my mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King and my grandfather Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. pic.twitter.com/75amN6Kgtr
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) February 19, 2023
Current U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting Kyiv, Ukraine today, amid the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. The Biden administration’s support for Ukraine has continued to divide political parties. Some praise Biden’s support of Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky’s democracy today, but several GOP politicians have criticized the visit.
This is incredibly insulting.
Today on our President’s Day, Joe Biden, the President of the United States chose Ukraine over America, while forcing the American people to pay for Ukraine’s government and war.
I can not express how much Americans hate Joe Biden. pic.twitter.com/nHXzG67YOL
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene???????? (@RepMTG) February 20, 2023
President Zelenskyy and all Ukrainians remind the world every day what courage is.
They remind us that freedom is priceless.
And worth fighting for.
For as long as it takes. pic.twitter.com/GlBT0Sg9ZL
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 20, 2023
President’s Day has long been regarded as an important show of the importance of democracy, and some feel that Biden’s foreign visit was just the right move to commemorate the day.
On Presidents’ Day, @POTUS’ visit to Kyiv is a reminder of the power of our presidency and how, when used responsibly, it can lift people up & be a beacon for freedom & democracy around the world.
I’m proud of President Biden’s leadership & I join him in standing with Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/wWn5VvNh1W
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 20, 2023
Regardless of the public opinion surrounding the many presidents being honored today, educators continue to push for a neutral approach to political history. Hank Green shared a brief history of today’s holiday on his long running CrashCourse.
Happy President's Day aka Washington's birthday! Washington was the 1st President & one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Learn more about the political world he lived in with CC U.S. History 'Where U.S. Politics Came From' (Think "Hamilton" but w/less singing & more facts ????) pic.twitter.com/jCg7o4CJFV
— CrashCourse (@TheCrashCourse) February 20, 2023
The United States was founded approximately 247 years ago, and many currently in office argue that there remains much progress to be made. Today offers a day of much needed reflection, and one that speaks both advice and cautionary tales.