Pages Navigation Menu

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY :MONDAY 19TH JANUARY 2015

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY (AMERICAN FEDERAL HOLIDAY)

MONDAY 19TH JANUARY 2015
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. He is most well-known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.
martin-luther-king-jr
“The Stone Of Hope” memorial by master sculptor Lei Yixin was opened to the public in West Potomac Park, Washington DC, on August 22, 2011. ©iStockphoto.com/Camrocker

Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday and there are few long standing traditions. It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background. Some educational establishments mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about the work of Martin Luther King and the struggle against racial segregation and racism. In recent years, federal legislation has encouraged Americans to give some of their time on this day as volunteers in citizen action groups.

 

Public life

 

Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday, but has slightly different names in some states. Non-essential Government departments are closed, as are many corporations. Some schools and colleges close but others stay open and teach their students about the life and work of Martin Luther King.

Small companies, such as grocery stores and restaurants tend to be open, although a growing number are choosing to close on this day. Some compensate by opening on Washington’s Birthday instead. Recent federal legislation encourages Americans to give some of their time on Martin Luther King Day as volunteers in citizen action groups. Public transit systems may or may not operate on their regular schedule.

 

Background

Martin Luther King was an important civil rights activist. He was a leader in the movement to end racial segregation in the United States. 

A major event in the centuries-long struggle to help Black Americans achieve equal rights was the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”  On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people from across the nation came together in Washington, D.C. to peacefully demonstrate their support for the passage of a meaningful civil rights bill, an end to racial segregation in schools and the creation of jobs for the unemployed. It was the largest demonstration ever held in the nation’s capital, and one of the first to have extensive television coverage. The march is remembered too as the occasion for Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It was a speech of hope and determination, and it epitomized the message the marchers proclaimed of racial harmony and a belief that Black and White Americans could live together in peace. The march also gave widespread publicity and political impetus to the then pending civil rights legislation a version of which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.


Selma

 

In early 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made Selma, Alabama, the focus of its efforts to register black voters in the South. That March, protesters attempting to march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were met with violent resistance by state and local authorities. As the world watched, the protesters (under the protection of federalized National Guard troops) finally achieved their goal, walking around the clock for three days to reach Montgomery. The historic march, and King’s participation in it, greatly helped raise awareness of the difficulty faced by black voters in the South, and the need for a Voting Rights Act, passed later that year.


Assassinated

 

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old.

 

 

Holiday Campaign

 

In 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King died, a campaign was started for his birthday to become a holiday to honour him. After the first bill was introduced, trade unions lead the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976. Following support from the musician Stevie Wonder with his single “Happy Birthday” and a petition with six million signatures, the bill became law in 1983. Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000. In 1990, the Wyoming legislature designated Martin Luther King Jr/Wyoming Equality Day as a legal holiday.

468 ad