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Origin Of Holidays

Martin Luther King Jr Day

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968) was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist from Atlanta, Georgia. He affiliated himself with the NAACP. In the mid-50s, the United States was still largely segregated both officially and unofficially depending on where one was located. While racism is still very much present today, back then the laws had yet to catch up with the Constitutional rights for Americans of color.

On March 2, 1955 when a Ms. Claudette Colvin was arrested for not sitting in the right section of the bus. The NAACP used it as a launch to challenge Jim Crow laws. When that didn't happen, the next test case came when Rosa Parks did the same thing on December 1, 1955. This is when King became a national figure of civil rights. She was found guilty and fined. King led a boycott over this injustice.

After a trip to India, he was inspired to follow the leadership of Gandhi [ironically, if correct, was a racist (Biswas, 2015)]. He led all his protests in a peaceful, non-violent manner after this trip. A protest came to test his resilience to peaceful demonstration. October 19, 1960 became a day of protest when King and his students were refused service at a lunch counter. Refusing to leave the premises, they were all arrested and the charges dropped.

King's most defining moment came on August 28, 1963 when he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream - one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal."

On April 3, 1968, King went to Memphis to lead a labor strike on behalf of sanitation workers. In another speech, he is remembered for saying, "I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land." He was shot the next day by James Earl Ray while on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill which created a federal holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. The first observation came on January 20, 1986, however, his birthday is observed on the third Monday of January leading to a 3-day weekend as this is a federal holiday.