Why We Have Monday Off: Martin Luther King and His Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. Montgomery arrest, 1958 (CC0 image via Wikimedia)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Montgomery arrest, 1958 (CC0 image via Wikimedia)

As we come to mid-January, many of us look forward to Martin Luther King Day primarily because we get to enjoy a long weekend. Martin Luther King Day (or MLK Day as I call it), occurs each year on the 3rd Monday of January. This federal holiday was established in order to commemorate Martin Luther King’s birthday (which was January 15, 1929) for his vision of an America where equality and freedom is extended to all citizens.

King was a leader at the forefront of the African-American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He preached and practiced methods of nonviolent protest as a means to bring an end to disenfranchisement, racial segregation, and unjust laws that negatively affected black Americans.  Some of the most notable civil rights demonstrations he organized or led include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma to Montgomery March, the Birmingham Campaign, and the 1963 March on Washington. He was recognized as a passionate public speaker and inspirational writer. Some of his most moving speeches include I Have a Dream, Beyond Vietnam, and I’ve Been to the Mountaintop. His most noted writings include Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can’t Wait, and Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

After King was assassinated in 1968, there were campaigns and discussions pertaining to making King’s birthday a federal holiday. There was resistance however by some members of Congress, who argued that federal holidays should not commemorate private citizens and that the government could not afford to give workers an extra paid holiday. A petition was started by the King Center to make the holiday official. Eventually, six million signatures were collected and presented to Congress in 1981. It was one of the largest petitions in US history to be presented to the federal government. In November 1983, the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was finally signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Observance of MLK Day began in 1986 although some states resisted making the holiday official until years (and in some cases decades) later.

If you are interested in learning more about Martin Luther King and/or the African American Civil Rights Movement, Touro Library has several resources on this important chapter of American history. Here is a selection of books available electronically from our library:

Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story 

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Touro Library also has several DVDs available at various campus locations for those who prefer learning via visual media. Some of our more popular DVD titles include:

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Historical Perspective

4 Little Girls

 Contributed by: Annette Carr, Business Librarian, 65 Broadway

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