Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Naomi Gutierrez, Reporter

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January, celebrates the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. and his work as a civil rights leader and hero. But the push for the holiday had notably been met with resistance throughout its run in the United States.

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Jr.) was a Baptist minister from Atlanta, GA who began a nonviolent civil disobedience movement as means to end racial segregation within the United States.

King first rose to national prominence during the 1955 bus boycotts in Montgomery, AL. As the president of Montgomery Improvement Association King, who had coordinated the boycott, successfully demonstrated the potential for nonviolent civil disobedience as means to challenge and end segregation.

In 1963, King led the March on Washington, an interracial assembly where more than 200,000 people gathered to demand equal justice for all citizens. This march was where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Kings work was influential in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed the segregation of public accommodations, facilities, and employment. Similarly, he played a large role in the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which demolished the legal barriers faced by African Americans that prevented their right to vote. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Following his passing there were national calls for a holiday in honor of the civil rights leader. By 1970, a number of states and cities made January 15 a holiday in celebration of Kings birthday.

Although, its push for as a federal holiday in Congress was met with opposition, which blocked its passage as a holiday nationwide.

John Conyers, one of the few Black members in Congress, would begin the push to make a holiday in honor of MLK Jr. for the next few years. Conyers efforts would eventually pay off as by the 1980s as he would garner the support of millions for the passing of the holiday.

In 1983, following a long debate, President Ronald Regan signed the bill into legislation.

Unsurprisingly, the bill was met with fierce backlash from Southern states. Several Southern states paired the holiday with the celebrate of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee’s birthday which fell on the 19 th . This practice, as of 2023, still is prominent in a few Southern states.

It would take almost 20 years until every state officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday nationwide.