Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn’t just a day we get to stay home from school. In previous years, Caledonia schools didn’t take this holiday off; but, with the opportunity of some free time this year, it is the perfect chance to celebrate this rememberance to the fullest.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated annually on the third Monday of January, this year being on January 17th. King was born January 15, 1929, so this day acts as a celebration and commemoration of everything that he contributed to the American Civil Rights Movement, his fight for equality, and his work to see bills like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed. As the National Constitution Center puts it, “today, the King holiday serves multiple purposes: It honors the total legacy of King; focuses on the issue of civil rights; highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change; and calls people into public service.”
The idea of this holiday was first presented to congress in 1968 by Michigan Representative John Conyers, four days after the assassination of King in Memphis. The Congressional Black Caucus, and Kings’ wife Corretta Scott King with the King Center, worked for the next 11 years to campaign for King’s birthday to become a federally recognized holiday.
According to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, this bill was defeated in the House of Representatives by 5 floor votes in November 1979. On January 15, 1983, 100,000 people rallied at the Washington Monument to express their support for the King Holiday. Stevie Wonder in the same year released his song titled “Happy Birthday” to garner support for this holiday bill to be passed. In the fall of 1983, the Senate officially passed this bill, and the holiday became federally approved. In 1986, Ronald Reagan officially announced the holiday, and by 2000 every state had officially recognized this holiday at the state level.
According to the Department of the Interior, Martin Luther King Jr Day “is the only federal holiday that is also designated by Congress as a national day of service – a day on, not a day off.” Participation in service activities has grown each year as more Americans are encouraged to provide meaningful change in their communities.” One of the prime ways to celebrate this holiday is to support your community through acts of service. Creating kids food basket bags, writing a letter to a senior citizen, or taking to help better your community are all ways to become involved. Additional ways to celebrate this holiday include learning more about King’s legacy beyond the basics that are taught in school. A basic history of King’s life is a great place to start, and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute has several resources to learn all about the work that King accomplished.
Of course, today isn’t the only day to learn about Black History and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but it doesn’t hurt to take this chance to learn about the roots of a social movement that impacts lives worldwide. You can take this opportunity to not merely stay home, but to make a difference in your community and broaden your understanding of American history.