Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1986…
Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the American Baptist minister and activist who was a key lead in the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 60s. King was known for advancing civil rights through means of non-violence. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, nonviolent protests in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 and the March on Washington that same year when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
In that speech he said:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American 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.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
In 1964, Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Price for his efforts again racial inequality and nonviolent resistance. In 1965 he organized the Selma to Montgomery marches. In 1966 he marched in Chicago to protest segregated housing. He also protested against poverty and the Vietnam War. He wasn’t always popular, either, as FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and had him investigated for possible communist ties.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee which caused riots in many US cities. James Earl Ray was convicted and imprisoned for having killed King. He serve 29 years and died in prison in 1998.
Posthumously, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. President Ronald Reagan signed into federal law that Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be celebrated in 1986.