Martin Luther King Jr.


Megan Atwood

Every January, we get the third Monday off. As we all know, Martin Luther King Jr. day is always the third Monday of January, yet we never truly take the time to appreciate his actions on this day. Another commonly known tidbit of information about him is that he had made a very famous speech. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King publicly read his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for jobs and freedom. The speech has been commonly quoted despite it being published over 50 years ago. It is considered revolutionary and an inspiration for all people of color to gain equality.

Martin Luther King Junior was born on January 15, 1929, and he was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout his life he had earned a Grammy award as well as a Nobel Prize for his work in peaceful protesting for the people of color against segregation of that time. Martin Luther King Jr. was named after a revolutionary member of the church because his family was religious. This time especially influenced him in his peaceful protest because he was a reverend who valued the Lord and the inherent dignity of all people. He was a strong Christian and would not give that up in order to have equality. He believed that one could achieve both through peaceful protesting.

Not many people who had been protesting in order to gain the rights as people of color in America had been using peaceful methods such as his. People such as Malcolm X or the Black Panther party pad believed that you must take initiative in any way possible and necessary. They believed that the violence was OK as it was for a good cause. 

Though Martin Luther King Jr. had stirred incredible social change, he was eventually assassinated by James Earl Ray while he was at a hotel. King had driven down to the Lorraine motel in Memphis Tennessee for the March by striking sanitation workers to support them and leave the march. Despite kings principles, many inner cities in America had exploded in violent actions out of anger. James Earl Ray was eventually sentenced to a 99 year prison sentence after he had escaped the scene of the crime and was found two months later in England. He claimed that the assassination was over a frame mean because of conspiracy, but the plea was ignored.

  Though his assassin had been thrown in jail within two months, it took 15 years to have an official day named after him. There were persistent and consistent efforts made by civil rights activists to be approved, in total 17 years for it to be seen as an official holiday in all 50 states of America. This is because even though King was an icon for democracy and civil rights, he was still seen as a controversial figure at that time. The holiday was brought to Congress and shut down by five votes in 1979. Period in a donation was brought to Congress several more times, and wasn’t approved until November 1983 where Ronald Reagan had approved a bill. By January 1986, all 50 states had to recognize that it was Martin Luther King Junior day on the third Monday of January. Although it had taken years of pushing, I believe that everyone is glad that the bill was approved.