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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Joann Wolwowicz

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Monday, Jan. 18, 2010, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The day was created to celebrate the birthday of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. However, not many people know the amount of time and fighting that went into getting the day set aside for a national holiday. King celebrated his last birthday on Monday, Jan. 15, 1968, for a pew short minutes followed by returning back to work on strategies to oppose the Vietnam War. Eighty days later his assassination occurred. On April 8, 1968, four days after the assassination, U.S. Representative John Conyers introduced legislation to create a federal holiday for King’s birthday. Most people would think that the emotions running high after King’s assassination would make it easy to make his birthday a federal holiday. However, it would take a lot of effort for this effort to succeed.

Some of the reasons behind the opposition against the federal holiday ranged from a variety of reasons. First, people said that there were already too many federal holidays and adding another one would cost too much already. With nine already established, adding a tenth would cost an estimated $18 million. Another complaint was that people asked why they should put King above other people, since not very many federal holidays honored a single individual. Additionally, every activist group was trying to commemorate a day as a federal holiday, especially the feminists who wanted to honor Susan B. Anthony’s birthday. The bill went no absolutely no where.

In 1970, six million signatures were sent to Congress to support a hearing to study the holiday issue, and the same was done in 1982 when another six million signatures were presented to the U.S. House Speaker. When Reagan was elected into office, he also opposed the bill. Finally, a compromise was proposed to help the situation along. Lawmakers decided to move the holiday from the original proposed date from January 15th, which was King’s actual birthday to the third Monday in January. The change was made because January 15 was said to be too close to Christmas and New Year’s. Finally, the bill passed on Aug. 2, 1983 by a 338-90 vote and the Senate approved it 78-22 on Oct. 18. The federal holiday was observed for the first time on Jan. 20, 1986, still however a number of states continued to resist the idea. It was actually not until 13 years, until 1999, when all 50 states adopted it.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day