Martin Luther King Day

Holiday

Next Monday, 16 January 2023

Martin Luther King Day, or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is observed on the third Monday of January every year.

It is a federal holiday and that's why most schools and businesses remain closed on this day.

Martin Luther King Day is held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the famous civil rights leader who was born in 1929.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King at the Press Conference

Different parts of the world celebrate it differently. In Idaho, this day is known as Human Rights Day, in Wyoming it is known as Wyoming Equality Day and in other states, they pay tribute to Robert E Lee by celebrating his birthday

Some people confuse this day with the birthday of Martin Luther but his birthday is on January 15.

However, under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, certain holidays, such as this one, are celebrated on a Monday to enable more families to spend time together.

Why Martin Luther King Is Such A Respectable Figure

Martin Luther King Jr earned a doctorate in theology in 1955 and was also a Baptist minister and a prominent social activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Some of his notable and memorable acts also include heading the 381- day protest against segregation on public transportation , initiated by Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955.

As a result of this protest , the Supreme Court declared such segregation as unconstitutional in November 1956.

He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 and it fought to gain full rights for African Americans in the United States by protesting non-violently.

He organized the popular march on Washington for jobs and freedom to highlight the daily struggles of African Americans in 1963 with the support of various civil rights and religious groups.

March on Washington, 1963
King and Other Leaders - March on Washington, 1963

Almost over 25,000 people took part in this protest and it ended at the Lincoln Memorial where the crowd gathered to listen to MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech that influences peace and equality.MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech that influences peace and equality.

It contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on color, religion, sex, or national origin.

He was also the youngest person to receive the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.

In 1965, he headed the Selma to Montgomery March, the success of which resulted in the Voting Rights Act in August, guaranteeing the right to vote for all African Americans.

He also addressed issues such as the Vietnam War and the poverty that Americans of all races faced, which drew controversy for him from all sides.

The Significance and History Of Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and 4 days after his assassination, a campaign was launched to declare his birthday, January 15 as a federal holiday.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan presented the first legislation to Congress.

The King Memorial Center in Atlanta was founded in 1968 and celebrated his birthday in 1969. It proposed nationwide ceremonies and acted to gain support.

Image of Martin Luther King's Memorial In Atlanta
The Martin Luther King Memorial In Atlanta

Some states such as Illinois, Massachusetts, and Connecticut passed their own bills to observe the day followed by other states later.

The SCLC obtained 3 million signatures petitioning for King's birthday to be recognized as a holiday. These were presented to Congress in 1971. SCLC obtained 3 million signatures petitioning for King's birthday to be recognized as a holiday. These were presented to Congress in 1971.

Also, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was founded in 1971, and Conyers was one of its founding members and it helped him to introduce his bill every year.

Labor unions also supported the idea of ??it being a holiday by striking until the day was declared as an official paid holiday for them.

However, it did not get enough support in Congress until President Jimmy Carter endorsed the holiday in 1979.

The King holiday bill came to a vote for the first time, but it fell short of the numbers required for it to be declared as an official holiday.

King's widow, Coretta Scott King, continued to fight on behalf of the day. Every year, Conyers presented the legislation to the floor, and every year, it failed to get the votes it needed.

Stevie Wonder also became an active supporter, organizing concerts and performing at rallies.

Wonder released his song “Happy Birthday” in 1980 in support of the holiday, and it quickly became a hit. He also backed the setting up of a lobbying office in Washington DC

By 1982, the CBC had collected 6 million signatures petitioning for the holiday. That same year, Scott King and Wonder presented them to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.CBC had collected 6 million signatures petitioning for the holiday.

That same year, Scott King and Wonder presented them to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

On the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, more than 500,000 people gathered to hear speakers ask for the Senate and President Ronald Reagan to pass legislation for the holiday.

Finally, despite fierce opposition, on November 3, 1983, President Reagan signed a bill declaring the third Monday of every January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Signing Ceremony for MLK Day
President Reagan at the Signing Ceremony for Martin Luther King Day - Coretta Scott King Looks On

It was first observed in 1986, although it was not until the year 2000 that it was observed in all states.

South Carolina was the last state to sign a bill acknowledging that Martin Luther King Day would be a paid holiday.

In 1990, the Wyoming legislature designated the day as the joint Martin Luther King Jr./Wyoming Equality Day.

It was the first holiday held in honor of a modern-day, private citizen.

How Is This Day Observed

Martin Luther King asked constantly "what are you doing for others?" and hence in honor of his greatness, people began observing this day as the day of giving back to their communities by volunteering in soup-kitchens, clean-ups, visiting isolated people or even virtual volunteering.

In the 1990s, the theme of the holiday became: “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off.”

It also encourages people to think about equal rights for all American citizens.

Some schools and educational institutes still remain open as they use this day to teach their students about what Martin Luther King did for civil rights and involve students in volunteering for the society.schools and educational institutes still remain open as they use this day to teach their students about what Martin Luther King did for civil rights and involve students in volunteering for the society.

Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day 2022

Date: Monday, 15 January 2024

Date: Monday, 20 January 2025

Date: Monday, 19 January 2026

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