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The History Of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Video)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(Photo by John Goodwin/Getty Images)

The holiday honoring the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated on every third Monday in January, but how did it originate?

According to this article, the movement to create the federal holiday began the year MLK was assassinated: 1968. Four days after he was killed by James Earl Ray at a motel in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan introduced legislation to create the federal holiday. Even though the bill stalled, six million people supported Rep. Conyers’ efforts by signing a petition and submitting it to Congress.

Before it became the national holiday we now know it to be, MLK Day first started as a state holiday in Illinois in 1973. It then took another 10 years for Congress to pass the holiday legislation, after Democratic Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York helped Rep. Conyers resubmit the bill, and public pressure for the holiday grew during civil rights marches in Washington 1982 and 1983. Republican President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in 1983, and the federal MLK holiday went into effect in 1986.

But it wasn’t originally planned for MLK Day to be celebrated on the third Monday of January each year. Originally, organizers were hoping for the holiday to be on MLK’s birthday, January 15. But many felt that was too close to Christmas and New Year’s, and needing as little opposition to the law as possible, organizers compromised.

In Lafayette, three days of activities, including the MLK Parade at 3 p.m. on Sunday, which goes from the Clifton Chenier Center on Willow Street to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Parkway, lead up to the holiday.

According to The Advocate, on Monday, things will kick off at 8:30 a.m. at the MLK Recreation Center with a flag-raising ceremony. After opening activities and a prayer breakfast at 8:45 a.m., there will be education/cultural activities for young people, as well as health screenings, booths and exhibitions from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The late Nelson Mandela will also be remembered during the event.

Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for equality for African-Americans by organizing peaceful protests and marches that, unfortunately, were met with hatred and racism. It was largely because of his leadership in such a trying time that important legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 came about and that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

To watch MLK’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, given on August 28, 1963, WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW:

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