Happening on the third Monday of January every year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the states, roughly marking the birthday of King on the 15th January. It is held to celebrate the life and achievements of the influential American civil rights leader, who is most well known for campaigns to end racial segregation and inequality.
The original bill to honour King with a federal holiday came to a vote in The U.S. House of Representatives in 1979 and subsequently failed to gather enough votes for it to be passed. Promptly after, The King Center, with support from the corporate community as well as the wider general public began a petition to reverse the decision. Stevie Wonder released the single “Happy Birthday” to further aid the petition, which eventually gathered over six million signatures, which was later named ‘the largest petition in favour of an issue in U.S. history’ by The Nation (weekly magazine in the U.S.). This lead to the bill being signed and passed by President Ronald Reagan on the 2nd November 1983, but the first federal holiday in King’s name was not held until the 20th January 1986.
Inevitably, the bill was strongly opposed by many, but it still remains a federal holiday to this day, and long may it continue. Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’ll leave you with a quote from the man himself:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Stride Toward Freedom the Montgomery Story – Chapter XI Where Do We Go From Here