Monday, January 18th of this year will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. MLK Day is an important day in remembrance of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did for civil rights. Although an important holiday now, it was not always like that. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had fought for civil rights, there were those who had to fight to get MLK Day recognized.
According to history.com, the first push for a holiday in remembrance of Dr. King was just four days after his assassination when John Conyers, then a Democratic Congressman from Michigan, took to the floor of Congress to insist on a federal holiday in King’s honor; however, this request was ignored. Conyers would then persist year after year, Congress after Congress, to get the bill passed and gather co-sponsors along the way. His persistence would eventually pay off. The bill would eventually pass in Senate and would be signed immediately into legislation by President Ronald Reagan and the first year it would be celebrated would be 1986; however, it would still suffer some challenges in southern states. Several of the southern states would combine the new holiday with holidays that uplifted Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, since Robert E. Lee was born on January 19.
It would not be until the year 2000 that every state in the Union would celebrate MLK Day. There are still states that celebrate MLK Day alongside other Confederate holidays, but, after three decades of controversy, it is observed. Due to the controversy and difficulties that this important holiday faced, it is important to keep with the spirit and purpose behind this holiday.
According to AmeriCorps on their website americorps.gov, MLK Day is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is an official day of service and celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. AmeriCorps also describes MLK Day as a day observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. AmeriCorps also encourages those to engage in volunteer service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During this year, it may be difficult to find volunteer opportunities, but rest assured that there are still people and organizations in need of volunteers to help. Search the web and local news for opportunities and keep with the purpose of this holiday in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
MLK Day Timeline
1983 Legislation was signed creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1986 Federal holiday was first observed.
1994 Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort.
2000 All states in the United States celebrate MLK Day as a national holiday.