We are already in the thick of January, and that means Martin Luther King Day is right around the corner.
The holiday, which falls on Jan. 20 of this year, celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s a time to remember how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go as far as civil rights go. Especially in this type of climate that we have in this country the past three years,” said Benjamin Paul. “Even longer.”
The idea to hold a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. was first introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979 when U.S. Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, and U.S. Senator Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts, brought forth a bill to make King’s birthday a national holiday. The bill was struck down over fears of a paid holiday being added to the calendar.
The holiday didn’t come into existence into it was signed into law in 1983. It then took three years to go into effect, but not every state chose to observe the holiday. There are many states that combine the name Martin Luther King Jr. with another name like in Alabama where Martin Luther King Jr. Day is called Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Birthday. Others twist the name with additional names like Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day in Arizona and Martin Luther King Jr.-Idaho Human Rights Day in Idaho.
In 2007, around 33 percent of employers gave employees Martin Luther King Jr. Day off.
“Martin Luther King was a visionary, an inspiration and someone who stood against hate,” said Rebecca Goldstein.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta in 1929. The son of a pastor and a schoolteacher, King was an advocate for civil rights issues. In the early 1960s, him and other civil rights and religious groups organized the famous March on Washington. The march was a peaceful political protest that aimed to put a spotlight on the racism African Americans experience.
The protest may have provided King with his most famous moment — the “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1964, King became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize award at the age of 35.
In the spring of 1968, King set out for Memphis where he was going to support sanitation workers who were striking. At 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shot King while he was standing on a second-floor balcony. He was taken to a hospital where emergency chest surgery was performed. King passed away at 7:05 p.m. that day.
“It is vital that we remember Martin Luther King every day, not just on his birthday,” said James Stanton.