(Earlier post updated 2/13/2024)
We are past Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday–February 12– and we are heading towards a three-day holiday.
So What Day Is it After All?
Okay. We all do it. It is printed on calendars and posted in bank windows. We mistakenly call the third Monday in February Presidents Day, in part because of all those commercials in which George Washington swings his legendary ax and “Rail-splitter” Abe Lincoln hoists his ax to chop down prices on everything from mattresses and linens to SUVs.
But, this February holiday is officially still George Washington’s Birthday.
But Washington’s Birthday has become widely known as Presidents Day (or President’s Day, or Presidents’ Day). The popular usage and confusion resulted from the merging of what had been two widely celebrated Presidential birthdays in February —Lincoln’s on February 12th, which was never a federal holiday– and Washington’s on February 22, which was.
Created under the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968, which gave us three-day weekend Monday holidays, the federal holiday on the third Monday in February is technically still Washington’s Birthday. But here’s the rub: the holiday can never land on Washington’s true birthday because the latest date it can fall is February 21, as it did in 2011.
But we cannot discuss Washington, Lincoln, the presidency, or much of United States history without discussing the role that slavery played in the foundation and establishment of the republic.
READ MY ARTICLE in Social Education: “The American Contradiction: Conceived in Liberty, Born in Shackles”
George Washington’s role as an enslaver is fully explored in my book IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives.
There is a wealth of information about the First President at his home Mount Vernon.
And read More About the creation of the Presidency, Washington, his life and administration in DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS. Washington’s role in the American Revolution is highlighted Chapter One of THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR.