MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY (a.k.a. Human-Rights Day and / or Civil-Rights Day )
Message 1 of 1
, Jan 21, 2013
MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY
and / or
The Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- often called Martin Luther King Day -- is a United States federal holiday marking the birth date of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., observed on the third Monday of January each year (which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15)
It is the only federal holiday in the United States that commemorates a person of the African-American Ethnic group -- and one of only four to commemorate an individual person.
Martin Luther King Day was founded as a holiday promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations.
After King's death in 1968, Rep. John Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday, highlighting King's activism on behalf of trade unionists.
Unions did most of the promotion for the holiday throughout the 1970s.
In 1976, trade unionists also helped to elect Jimmy Carter, who endorsed the King Day bill.
After that endorsement, the union influence in the King holiday campaign declined, and the King Center turned to support from the corporate community and the general public.
The success of this strategy was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. 6 million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law, termed by a 2006 The Nation article as "...the largest petition in favor of an issue in US history."
Opposition to the bill was led by Senator Jesse Helms, who questioned whether King was "important enough" to receive such an honor.
President Ronald Reagan was also opposed to the holiday.
He relented in his opposition only after Congress passed the King Day Bill with an overwhelming, veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate).
At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King.
It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.
On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 U.S. states.
The day is marked by demonstrations for peace, social justice and racial and class equality, and is also a national day of volunteer community service.
On January 16, 2006 Greenville County , South Carolina [is said to have been] the last county in the U.S. to officially adopt Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday.
In Utah, Martin Luther King Day is also known as Human Rights Day; similarly, in Arizona and New Hampshire, Martin Luther King Day is also known as Civil Rights Day.
Although the day is both a federal holiday and, thus also a state holiday in all states, it is usually not observed by very small private companies (except for banks) -- and small shops, grocery stores and restaurants do tend to remain open.
Some large corporations close their operations -- more so than on Veterans Day or Columbus Day (which are also federal holidays) but less so than on holidays such as Memorial Day or Labor Day when virtually all of the corporations are closed.
Additionally, some schools and places of higher education are closed for classes; others remain open but may hold seminars or celebrations of Dr. King's message.