An American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was an extraordinary individual who had a way of inspiring through his practice of nonviolence. Known for his involvement with movements such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, the Albany Movement in 1961, the Birmingham campaign in 1963, and perhaps most famously, his March on Washington in 1963 where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King jr. set forth a precedent of nonviolent protest for human rights in the United States.

Background Information of MLK Day:

  • April 8, 1968– Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduces legislation for a federal holiday to commemorate King, just four days after his assassination.
  • April 1971 – The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) presents to Congress petitions containing three million signatures in support of the holiday. Congress does not act.
  • 1973 – Illinois is the first state to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday.
  • November 1979– The House fails to pass Conyers’ King Holiday bill by five votes.
  • 1982– Coretta Scott King and Stevie Wonder bring the speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil, petitions with over six million signatures in favor of a holiday.
  • 1983– Congress passes and President Ronald Reagan signs legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday. Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) attempt to block the bill’s passing.