Martin Luther King Junior Day


Martin Luther King (MLK) Day is celebrated this year on Monday, January 18th. This day is used to celebrate the accomplishments we have made to advance racial equality and to reflect on the work that still needs to be done. This is an important day to act on and speak out about civil rights issues that need to be addressed across the globe.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929. He led many civil rights movements from the mid-50’s until the time of his death in 1968. He led movements such as the March on Washington in 1963 which was held to advance civil rights. He also pushed to end segregation by taking part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King Jr. gave many famous speeches that were intended to help end segregation and racial injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. died by assassination on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee.

After Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s death, US Representative John Conyers and US Senator Edward Brooke introduced a bill to make Martin Luther King’s birthday, January 15th, a national holiday. In 1979, the bill fell short of votes and was not passed at this time. In 1981, there was a Rally for Peace Press Conference. During this conference, six million signatures were collected for a petition for Congress to pass the law. This was considered the largest petition in favor of an issue in all of US history. Ronald Reagan was in office during this time. Originally, he opposed the holiday due to cost concerns, however, on November 2nd, 1983, he signed a bill, proposed by Representative Katie Hall, to create a federal holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day was first celebrated as a holiday on January 20th, 1986. This day is celebrated on the third Monday of January rather than on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to follow the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This act ensures that federal holidays such as Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and now MLK Day fall on a Monday so that employees could have a three-day weekend. It was not until the year 2000 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed in all 50 states.

Ways to Observe

Take some time to learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and his history. Read his work as well as work from his family. Learn about the life he lived and all he has done to end racial injustice. Share what you learned with your friends and family. Inform those around you about the remarkable movements this man has made during his time.

On this day, you can support your local African American community and racial justice organizations. MLK Day is a day to show your support for civil rights and the countless injustices that people of color face. Although we have come a long way with the help of Martin Luther King Jr., and many other important figures, there is always more to be done. Take some time on January 18th to show your support, spread the word, and get out to fight racial injustice in any way that you can.

Author: Samantha Potocnik
Samantha is an intern at EVOLVE and a student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.

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