On January 15, the entire nation pauses in remembrance of a civil rights hero.
MLK day was designed to honor the activist and minister assassinated in 1968, whose accomplishments have continued to inspire generations of Americans. The fight for a holiday in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s honor was an epic struggle in and of itself-and it continues to face resistance today in the form of competing holidays to leaders of the Confederacy. The first push for a holiday honoring King took place just four days after his assassination. 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, the request fell on deaf ears. When his first bill failed, Conyers was undaunted. The tide finally turned in the early 1980s. By then, the Congressional Black Caucus had collected six million signatures in support of a federal holiday in honor of King. Stevie Wonder had written a hit song, “Happy Birthday,” about King, which drove an upswell of public support for the holiday. And in 1983, as Civil Rights Movement veterans gathered in Washington to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington, King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, and the 15th anniversary of his murder, something shook loose. The bill passed with ease the following day (78-22) and President Ronald Reagan immediately signed the legislation. But though the first federal holiday was celebrated in 1986, it took years for observance to filter through to every state.
The Fight for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Erin Blakemore – http://www.history.com/news/martin-luther-king-jr-day-controversial-origins-of-the-holiday