Every year on the third Monday of January we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. As we drive around town, we see the American flag flying through our neighborhood. City streets mark the day as a national holiday. Additionally, some may know of this as a day off school or work. Others see it as a day when stores are closed. Maybe some of us are wondering what MLK Day is and why we celebrate it. No matter how familiar you may be with the holiday it is a good idea to reflect on what it is about. Read on to find out more about who Martin Luther King Jr was and what the holiday represents.
[su_button target=”blank” style=”stroked” background=”#1913d0″ color=”#fffdfe” size=”11″]Click Here to start your online search[/su_button]
Who is Martin Luther King Jr?
In order to understand what this holiday is and why we celebrate it you first must understand who Martin Luther King Jr is. MLK is a key player in the history of the American civil rights movement. A Baptist minister, as well as a social activist, he is most known for his efforts in seeking out equal rights for African Americans. Most people do not know that he was also a huge activist for those who are economically disadvantaged. As well as any victims of injustice. No matter who they are. MLK dedicated himself and his efforts to helping others receive the human rights that they deserve. He was a leader due to the fact that he did not believe in fighting violence with more violence. Peaceful protests were the only ones he would lead and participate in. Furthermore, he was the driving force behind many civil rights events throughout the 1950’s, up until his assassination in 1968. Some of the most monumental events being the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, and the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
The city of Montgomery was highly segregated during the 1950’s. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family had lived there for a little under a year, when things went from bad to worse. The decision of Brown v. Board of Education declared that segregating schools was unconstitutional. The city of Montgomery felt they were going to continue to lose their power over other races. Out of anger, the treatment became even harsher than before the ruling to make a statement.
After Rosa Parks took a stand and refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus she was arrested. This act of protest inspired Martin Luther King Jr as well as many fellow activists. The group got together and coordinated a bus boycott. They chose MLK as the leader and spokesperson for the event. This boycott would continue for a total of 381 days. This put a very big economic strain on the public transit. Eventually ending in the Supreme Court ruling that segregated seating on public buses was unconstitutional. By this time Martin Luther King Jr was in a national spotlight as a leader. His inspiration flourished for organized and nonviolent resistance towards injustice.
The March on Washington
In 1963 the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther Jr worked together with many civil rights and religious groups to organize the event. With around 250,000 people gathering, this peaceful protest had a massive turnout. The crowd marched down the streets of Washington D.C and eventually gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The goal of the event was to bring attention to the fact that even a century after emancipation African Americans were still faced with injustice. It was able to accomplish its goal by shining a huge light on the challenges of inequality the country was going through. This was where his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech took place.
I Have a Dream
The march ended by Martin Luther King Jr addressing the crowd with one of the most famous and inspiring speeches of all time. The “I Have a Dream” speech was a call to the people of America for peace and equality. MLK’s speech proved just how much power words hold. ]that they can in fact truly change the world. He stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his vision for the future. A future in which people were not judged by the color of the skin but by the kind of person they were. The iconic speech cemented Martin Luther King Jr’s reputation. Later that year he was named TIME magazine’s “Man of the Year” and a year later he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Fight for MLK Day
After Martin Luther King was fatally shot on a balcony of a motel in Memphis, the country was sent into shock. President Johnson even declared a national day of mourning. Being the inspiration and leader that he was, his supporters knew that something needed to be done to honor his life. There was immediate discussion of dedicating a day or event in his honor. Many felt that a onetime thing, no matter how big, would not be enough to represent the legacy he left behind. This is when the idea of making a national holiday in his honor started to float around. It may be surprising but the process of approving the idea was anything but easy. Congressman John Conyers was the leader of the movement.
The Fight for MLK Day
Just 4 days after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination John Conyers introduced a bill. This bill made January 15th a federal holiday, in Martin Luther King Jr’s honor. He chose January 15th because that is MLK’s birthday. Congress continued to shut down any version he presented over and over. Many worried that passing the bill would add fuel to the fire of angry rioters over the civil rights movement. Others argued that federal holidays cost too much money. After 15 years the movement gained enough support that President Ronald Reagan signed a bill. It marked the third Monday of January as Martin Luther King Jr Day. The very first MLK Day was celebrated on January 20th, 1986. Martin Luther King Jr’s wife, Coretta Scott King, was even able to chair the commission responsible for putting together the very first celebration. This celebration included a whole week of events leading up until the official holiday itself.
Celebrate His Legacy
Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy shows us that we can use words to change the world. Most importantly, the life he lived shows us that the best way to fight hate is with love. On Martin Luther King Jr Day we should all take a moment to reflect on exactly what he represents. As we celebrate today for Martin Luther King Jr Day, remember why exactly this day is so important. MLK plays a huge role in American History. His fight for civil rights for African Americans helped change so many lives. Take some time to honor the way he lived his life, what he represents, and what he fought for. We can all learn so much by honoring Martin Luther King Jr. We hope you were able to learn more about who Martin Luther King Jr is and why we honor him every year. Enjoy your holiday.