Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a special presence in the American history: he was the leader of nonviolent Civil Rights protests and an authority in the discussion about racial equality. Moreover, his name is praised every year during the Martin Luther King Day, which is one of the three federal holidays in the US that celebrate the birthday of a public figure; he became as prominent in the American culture as George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Initially, some parts of the country did not agree to add the holiday to the calendar, but finally in the year 2000, every state adopted annual Martin Luther King Day on the third Monday of January. Some states, however, insisted on combining this day with some other existing holidays: Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi connected it with Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, Arizona and New Hampshire joined it with the Civil Rights Day, and Idaho called it Idaho Human Rights Day.
The promotion of MLK’s holiday began soon after his assassination in 1968; the Congress received a bill from a Democratic U.S. Representative John Conyers and a Republican U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. The first vote took place in 1979, but the bill did not pass for another four years due to some Congressmen’s reluctance to create another paid holiday, especially in the name of a person who never held a public office. Some politicians, like Senator Jesse Helms, opposed honoring the privilege to King, because the activist was supposedly associated with communists. Nevertheless, President Reagan signed the bill on November 2, 1983. The first celebration of the holiday was observed only on January 20, 1986, though. The first state to adopt the date was New Hampshire in 1991, and the last one Utah in 2000. The final part of America to make Martin Luther King Day a paid holiday, however, was South Carolina. The most famous campaigns for Martin Luther King were: in 1981, when Stevie Wonder released a song popularizing the holiday called “Happy Birthday”, and in 1990, when NFL refused to play the next Super Bowl provided that the bill would not pass in Arizona.
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday, but some government offices remain open; similarly, only a part of public institutions and private businesses close. The main principle of this holiday is to promote equality of all Americans and commemorate the Civil Rights Movement. That is why many schools do not take the day off, but organize special lessons devoted to King’s heritage. Atlanta Congressman John Lewis and U.S. Senator Harris Wofford attempted to encourage the nation to celebrate the holiday by doing charity work. With the signature of President Bill Clinton from 1994, they established the legislation of the national Martin Luther King Day of Service. Numerous universities and other public institutions partake in the campaign.
The significance of MLK Day is growing. A lot of research is devoted to King’s life and achievements, and an increasing number of students learn about him as a national hero. What is more, although private businesses are not required to be closed on that holiday, more and more employers decide to give their workers a day off, as an exchange for George Washington’s birthday. The topic of human rights and tolerance is very up-to-date, and the growing interest in Martin Luther King Day confirms that.