Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a holiday celebrating the birth and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January and is the only federal holiday commemorating an African American in the U.S. Reagan signed a bill creating this federal holiday to honor King on November 2, 1983. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986. By January 17, 2000, all US states observed it.
So what do you know about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Maybe you are unfamiliar with his life. Well, here is a snapshot of the events surrounding one man who affected the world.
1) Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. His parents knew he was unique when he skipped the ninth and twelfth grade in school. He entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. In 1948, he graduated from this school with a B.A. degree in sociology and then enrolled in Crozier Theological Seminary. By 1951, King began doctoral studies at Systematic Theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. in 1955.
2) In 1953, at age 24, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This marked the beginning of his activism. It was only two years later that he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott lasted a little over a year and led the United States Supreme Court to outlaw racial segregation on all public transport.
3) King was instrumental in founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. This group focused on harnessing moral authority and organizing churches to conduct non-violent protests with the effort to promote civil rights reform.
4) The FBI began wiretapping King in 1961 using the excuse that they feared that communists were infiltrating the Civil Rights Movement; a movement aimed at ending Jim Crow Laws created to oppress southern blacks. However, these tapes never proved that any communists were involved with Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, the FBI used these tapes as an effort to oust him from his position. It was a failed effort.
The efforts by the FBI only aided King in bringing more light to the injustices perpetrated against southern blacks and added fuel to the Civil Rights Movement making it one of the single most important issues in American politics during the 1960’s.
5) By the mid 1960’s, King had assisted in enacting two bills that effect all Americans: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation in the US that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed the requirement that potential voters in the US take literacy tests to qualify to register to vote, a mechanism used to limit black votes and provided for federal registration of voters in areas that had less than 50% eligible minority voters registered to vote.
6) Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Friends inside the motel room heard the shots and ran to the balcony in an effort to save King. However, it was too late. In only an hour, he was pronounced dead. A crowd of 300,000 came to his funeral including the current Vice President, Hubert Humphrey.
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is just one way to honor the life of a man who helped so many Americans. It’s also a way to honor the equality of all humanity. Morever, it is a reminder to every American of what one person can do to change a society.
Famous Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process. Ultimately, you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.”
“The church cannot be silent while mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race.”
“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding. It seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.”
“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.”
“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.”
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”