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Martin Luther King, Jr is the only non-president of US to have a national holiday dedicated in his honour, reports PRIYANKA TOMAR

Every year on the third Monday of January, US observes its annual commemoration to honours the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a ‘colour-blind’ society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality. This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the federal holiday to honour Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK), Nobel Peace Prize winning civil rights leader. This day celebrate the legacy of his life and the timeless values he taught everyone through his example – the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr King’s character and empowered his leadership.

In comments marking the opening of two new civil rights museums in Mississippi recently, President Donald Trump described Martin Luther King Jr as a personal hero. Praising Martin Luther King Jr as one of the driving forces behind the civil rights movement, Trump described him as “a man who I’ve studied and watched and admired for my entire life.” Martin Luther King Day, also known as Martin Luther King’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr Day, is combined with other days in different states. For example, it is combined with Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, while it is observed together with Human Rights Day in Idaho. It is also a day that is combined with Robert E. Lee’s birthday in some states. The day is known as Wyoming Equality Day in the state of Wyoming.


It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin’s philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflictreconciliation. The day provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil and not people, and also to get in the habit of asking ourselves, “What is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?”

And it is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. On the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.

How Did Martin Luther King Jr. Day Become a Holiday & How the Day Was Celebrated?

A federal holiday honouring Dr King was first proposed four days after he was assassinated, in 1968, but it took almost two decades of campaigning for it to be approved and designated at the national level.It was to be a holiday ‘Celebrating Peace’. After the first bill was introduced, trade unions led the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976. Following support from the musician Stevie Wonder with his single “Happy Birthday” and a petition with six million signatures, the bill became law in 1983. Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000.

Although King was assassinated in 1968, legislation designating the third Monday in January-near his birthday on 15th January-as a legal holiday to honour him did not pass until 1983. The first year the US observed the holiday was 1986, when the day fell on January 20. That Monday, people across the country held marches and church services to celebrate King’s legacy, as shown by 1986 ABC News report. From then, residents across the nation celebrated MLK Day in various ways. Included in the observations were prayer breakfasts, parades, protests, commemorative services, distance runs and community service projects. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, people in all 50 states had made plans to deliver meals, renovate community centres, and/or collect food and clothing, among other acts of service. It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background. Some educational establishments mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about the work of Martin Luther King and the struggle against racial segregation and racism.


Martin Luther King Jr was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the second child of Martin Luther King Sr, a pastor, and Alberta Williams King, a former school teacher. A gifted student, King attended segregated public schools and at the age of 15 was admitted to Morehouse College, the alma mater of both his father and maternal grandfather, where he studied medicine and law. Although he had not intended to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the ministry, he changed his mind under the mentorship of Morehouse’s president, Dr. Benjamin Mays, an influential theologian and outspoken advocate for racial equality. After graduating in 1948, King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree, won a prestigious fellowship and was elected president of his predominantly white senior class.

King then enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University, completing his coursework in 1953 and earning a doctorate in systematic theology two years later.In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Thus Martin Luther King Jr become a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States.While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of colour or creed, are equal members of the human family. He was the driving force behind many watershed events, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, one can say that African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history. He also became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. In this way, he become the only nonpresident to have a national holiday dedicated in his honour, and the only non-president to memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capital.

He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly-relevant to the progress of humankind. Martin Luther King Jr. remains roundly celebrated today, all thanks to his fervent advocacy of advancing civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience. Dr. King’s words are so potent, they’ve certainly not lost their power to inspire over the years.


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