Commemorating a Day to Martin Luther King Jr.

Jessica Raya, Author

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The third Monday in January marks the day of remembrance of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy in battling for civil rights.  

Martin Luther King Jr., born January 15th, 1929, was a famous civil rights activist. He has greatly contributed to many civil rights movements. King was responsible for organizing the first major protest for the civil rights movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted from December 5th, 1955 until December 20th, 1956. It was a protest in which African Americans in the city of Montgomery refused to use city buses. This was regarding the segregated seating on all buses in Alabama at the time. They would boycott the buses until the U.S. Supreme Court integrated their bus system.   

After the United States’ first major protest against segregation, Martin Luther King became a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement. Along with the Montgomery bus boycott, King participated in the March on Washington in 1963. During that time, King also delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of remembrance of one of the greatest human beings to ever live. He brought hope to a generation that needed it, and for that, he is loved and cherished every single day,” said Madison Rose, a senior at Spring Mills High School.   

King was known for his nonviolent efforts in the civil rights movement. His main influence was Mahatma Gandhi, another well-known figure of his time. He led marches and protests throughout the American South. Even though he participated in nonviolence, King and his followers encountered violence by people who disagreed with their beliefs.  

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” said Martin Luther King Junior, one of his most famous quotes.  

On April 4th, 1968, the dreadful day came where Martin Luther King Jr. died. His cause of death was assassination by a man named James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. But Martin Luther King Junior Day didn’t officially become a federal holiday until November 2nd, 1983 

The reason behind the long wait for King’s holiday was due to many factors, including politics, racism, and conspiracy. It took two different petitions for the House to pass a bill for a King holiday because it didn’t have enough support behind it. Then it faced a tougher fight in the Senate when people tried to make King look bad with rumors.  

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to remember someone who fought hard to make sure all human beings, no matter what color, can live equally among each other as they should. King helped to lessen the divide of people based on race or color,” said Cheyniah McKey, a senior at Spring Mills High School.   

After a lengthy battle, President Ronald Reagan turned the bill into a law in 1983 and the first official holiday was observed in January of 1986. But at the time, only 27 states observed the holiday, many were still opinionated towards it. In 2000, the last state to recognize Martin Luther King Junior Day as a federal holiday was South Carolina.  

“It is not a black holiday; it is a people’s holiday,” said Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s wife, after Reagan dedicated a day to her husband.

MLK Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial