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Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day honors the life of a man who promoted equal rights.

Tina S
Tina S
Mar 17, 2010
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Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Rev. Dr. 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. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. He was assassinated in 1968.

That is because Martin Luther King Day was met by opposition and controversy from the very beginning.  Many states were reluctant to accept the federal holiday under that name and even those who voted in the designation of the holiday didn’t like the fact that it was a national holiday for a private citizen.  Many states observed the holiday only under different designations, such as Civil Rights Day, and sometimes in connection with other holidays.

Background:

The idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday was promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations. After King's death, U.S. Representative John Conyers (the Democrat from Michigan) introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday. The bill first came to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. However, it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage.

Two of the main arguments mentioned by opponents were that a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive, and that a holiday to honor a private citizen would be contrary to longstanding tradition (King had never held public office). Soon after, the King Center turned to support from the corporate community and the general public. The success of this strategy was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law, termed by a 2006 article in The Nation as "the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill, proposed by Representative Katie Hall of Indiana, creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.

The bill established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission to oversee observance of the holiday, and Coretta Scott King was made a member of this commission for life by President George H. W. Bush in May 1989.

What Do People Do?

Martin Luther King Day is a relatively new 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.

Martin Luther King Day, also known as Martin Luther King’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr Day, is combined with other days in different states.

For example, it is combined with Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, while it is observed together with Human Rights Day in Idaho. It is also a day that is combined with Robert E. Lee’s birthday in some states.

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.

One place outside the United States where Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed with equal importance is in the Japanese city of Hiroshima under mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who holds a special banquet at the mayor's office as an act of unifying his city's call for peace with King's message of human rights.



 

Keywords: Martin Luther King Day,Washington's Birthday,White house,Federal Holiday,President Ronald Reagan,United States,Civil Rights Day, Americans,acial segregation and racism,legislation.



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