Martin Luther King’s birthday is actually January 15th….the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of January and comes under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (didn’t even know we had one). King was the CHIEF spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which, as we ALL should know, successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and it was first observed three (3) years later. Typical of our country, some states resisted observing the holiday and gave it alternative names or combined it with other holidays, however, it was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000.
I have to interject that it is absolutely amazing to me that there is STILL racism in this country or anywhere in the world….but, so be it….even with a President that is half African…I absolutely loathe injustices and I loathe racism even more….
This holiday was actually promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations. It was originally brought before the House/Senate but fell short by five (5) votes….the main argument was that it would be expensive to have another federal holiday (for the government and private industry, alike) and that it would be contrary to longstanding tradition to have a holiday for a private citizen. In 1981, a petition for the holiday was signed by six million individuals and was termed as ‘the largest petition in favor of an issue in US history’. Coretta King was on the White House lawn with Ronald Reagan when the bill was signed. The bill also established a Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission to oversee observance of this holiday. Coretta King was appointed to the Commission for life.
There was a great deal of opposition from many sources to this holiday….led by Jesse Helms, who accused King of being a Communist as part of a 300 page document presented to the Senate….Patrick Moynihan threw the document on the Senate floor in anger….the Governor of the State of Arizona, on his way out of office, declared MLK day in Arizona as an Executive Order, the new Governor undid this declaration shortly after taking office….which caused the NFL in 1990 to move the Super Bowl to California in 1993. In May of 2000, South Carolina became the last state to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday an official state holiday. Prior to this, employees could choose between celebrating MLK Day or one of three Confederate holidays…..yes, southerners still celebrate the Confederacy….to this day….in my neighborhood in Memphis, one could regularly see Confederate Flags flying….and I lived in a relatively upper socio-economic neighborhood….thankfully, my closest friend there had parents that marched with Martin Luther King Jr…..
Some interesting facts….
***In Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is known as ‘Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Birthday’;
***In Arizona, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is known as ‘Martin Luther King Jr/Civil Rights Day’;
***In Arkansas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is known as ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee’s Birthdays’;
***In New Hampshire, its official name is ‘Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day’;
***In Virginia (my favorite), it was known as Lee-Jackson-King Day, combining King’s birthday with the established Lee-Jackson Day. The incongruous (understatement) nature of the holiday, which simultaneously celebrated the lives of Confederate Army generals and a civil rights icon, did not escape the notice of Virginia lawmakers (BRAVO!!!). In 2000, Lee Jackson Day was moved to the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, establishing MLK Jr. Day as a holiday in its own right.
Rep. John Lewis (Georgia 5th Congressional District) and Civil Rights leader, was one of the first to suggest a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. This federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The legislation was signed into effect by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The largest event honoring Dr. King is the Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service.
Believe it or not, Martin Luther KIng Jr. day is observed in Hiroshima, Japan (Please remember King advocated non-violence), Toronto, Canada and Israel…
I recognize that Martin Luther King Jr. was fallible as the rest of us….a true religious leader, who may have gone ‘wrong’ at times….something even notated in the movie, Selma….however, he was and is one of my heroes….he always wanted peaceful dialog and would still be shouting out about injustices if he had not been felled at the young age of 39 in Memphis, TN…
What are you doing for Martin Luther King Jr. Day….for your community, business, school or another individual??? Again, if you want suggestions on volunteering for yourself personally or for your business, please contact me at Rosanne Bennett at 484-798-1236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, thank you all for following me on this BLOG….I only recently learned how many of you there are ….it is most appreciated….the more people this BLOG reaches, the better working conditions we will all have…