Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was a public figure involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Born in 1929, he followed in his father’s footsteps in Christian ministry. He was inspired by the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

The first major movement Martin Luther King Jr. took place in began in 1955, when he was only twenty six years old. He led the Montgomery bus boycott, a social protest campaign that lasted over a year. In the aftermath of Rosa Parks arrest and during the protest, Martin Luther’s house was bombed, and he was arrested. The Browder v. Gayle court case ruled bus segregation illegal under the fourteenth amendment, which stated that everyone, despite race, was an equal citizen under the law. Over the next ten years, King was arrested nearly thirty times, once for something as little as driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Many public officials believed communists were invading the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, the FBI began to tape all of King’s phone conversations in 1963 in attempt to prove the presence of communists in the movement. They believed this because they were against the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow activists. One woman believed King was conspiring against her with the help of communists. She stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener as he was signing copies of his first book Stride Towards Freedom published in 1958. He was hospitalized for several weeks from this attack and during this time, he wrote his second book The Measure of a Man.

In 1957, King and other civil rights activists, including Joseph Lowery and Ralph Abernathy, created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to organize the power of black churches to protest peacefully. He was the president of the conference until his assassination in 1968. King’s leadership helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race or religion, and secured the ability to vote among racial minorities, respectively.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1983, in honor of his birthday, which is January 15, even though it was observed this year on January 16. Each year, on the third Monday of January, Americans take part in service projects to honor Dr. King. In 1994, Congress decided this day would be a national day of service. This day is a way to help move America closer to his vision of a “Beloved Community.”  Back when this day was first made a federal holiday, some states decided to protest observing it or considered giving it a different name, like Civil Rights Day. MLK Day was officially observed by all 50 states for the first time in 2000.