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Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in African-Americans, History, Holidays, Inspiration and Living, Society | 0 comments

History of Martin Luther King Jr Day

The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a champion of human rights, which why he was assassinated.

Each year during the national holiday in his honor, his “I Have A Dream” speech is recited throughout the USA.

Here is how he starts describing his dream:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

Dr. King quotes perhaps the best-known statement in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

It happens to be a statement that plenty of white Americans disagreed with back in 1963.

Sadly, plenty of white Americans still disagreed with it back in 1979, when white congressional Dixiecans-feigning-to-be-Republicans opposed passage of federal legislation that would create a MLK holiday.

From the New York Times, 16 January 2017:

“When the proposal to create the holiday was debated in Congress in 1979, Republicans led the charge against it. The strongest opposition came from lawmakers in the Deep South, such as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform.”

In 1983, Democrat Congresswoman Katie Hall reintroduced legislation to create a MLK holiday.

“On August 2, 1983, more than 15 years after King’s assassination, the bill passed the House by a vote of 338 to 90.” – U.S. House of Representatives website

On 01 November 1983, the legislation was debated on the U.S. Senate floor, which is when a Senate Dixiecan tried his best to defeat it.

From the History Channel:

“When the legislation once again made it to the floor, it was filibustered by Jesse Helms, the Republican senator from North Carolina. As Helms pressed to introduce FBI smear material on King — whom the agency had spent years trying to pinpoint as a Communist and threat to the United States during the height of his influence — into the Congressional record, tensions boiled over. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the senator from New York, brought the materials onto the floor, then dropped them to the ground in disgust in a pivotal moment of the debate. The bill passed with ease the following day (78-22) and President Ronald Reagan immediately signed the legislation.”

No, Dr. King was not a Communist and not a threat to the USA. Instead, he was a threat to the those who worshipped the 19th-century Confederacy (Examples: Dixiecans feigning to be Republicans; The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy) as well as the racist religious institutions of that day (Example: Southern Baptist Convention*).

The MLK holiday was first observed as a federal holiday on the third Monday of January 1986.

United Press International reports, “By 1989, Martin Luther King Day was observed as a federal holiday in only 44 states, though the remaining six would eventually follow suit. New Hampshire was the last state to make it a paid state holiday in 1999, and in 2000 Utah changed its Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King Day. South Carolina made the day a paid holiday for its state employees in 2000.”

The MLK holiday had plenty of opposition from white residents of Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi. National Geographic quotes historian Lois Horton saying that Dr. King “was seen as an enemy of things that they believed in. It was difficult for them to then change to see him as someone who should be celebrated.”

National Geographic continues, “And so, rather than adopting a separate MLK Day, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi packaged it with a holiday they already celebrated — the anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birthday on January 19.”

So, while a martyred champion of human rights is being honored on the 3rd Monday of January in all 50 states, someone who championed the opposite is also being honored in some states. A valid response to the latter is . . .


*One of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 20th-century racist teachings is revealed in the 10 December 2019 ABC News report Georgia councilman’s defiant opposition to interracial marriage leads to his resignation.

ABC News quotes the report’s subject as saying, “I was raised in a Southern Baptist church and I have been taught to believe, and it makes a lot of sense to me, that God created all these different races and if he had wanted them all commingled into one race, he would have done it himself.”

The person who made the above-quoted statement was taught something that isn’t taught by the Bible.

Whether or not Southern Baptist churches are still teaching it this author does not know.


Featured Image in Public Domain