Why Do We Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It has been designated for the third Monday of January, despite the fact that MLK’s actual birthday is January 15. 

MLK was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in MLK’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. In 1994, President Bill Clinton designated the purpose of  MLK Day as a day of remembrance and service. At first, some states resisted designating this holiday and would give the day a different name or combine it with other holidays. It was officially accepted in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

“During the late 1970’s, many of us made a decision to take a day off from work, not send our kids to school, and have celebrations, long before it was granted by legislation. We did this until it became a holiday,” said Mr. Wayne Powell, the Bible 9 and 12 teacher. Mr. Powell lived in Washington D.C. during the time when Congress was voting on the holiday. Each year leading up to the eventual decision by Congress, in Washington D.C. there were parades, with floats, marching bands, and the artist Stevie Wonder, who wrote the MLK “Happy Birthday” song, was the Parade Grand Marshall in 1980.

It (the day) really makes us reflect on what we could do in the present, in seeing what social injustices are occurring and what we can do about it.”

— Allyson Monsada

 

“MLK was probably the most influential person of this time period for the Civil Rights movement,” Mr. Steve Jacobs, the Social Studies teacher, said. 

“Many African Americans felt Dr. King was considered the ‘safest’ Black leader to honor by mainstream American because of his Christian religious values,” Mr. Powell said.

Since MLK Day became a federal holiday, schools all over the nation began to teach about his accomplishments. “Schools normally celebrate MLK Day by teaching about his impact on the past, but maybe we can change this to teaching about the impact his teachings have and should have on us today,” sophomore Katrina Husby said. Schools are closed for the day.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of celebration for MLK’s life and legacy as a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and a day of service in honor of his dedication to promote equality for all.