The United States is presented as a country of liberty and equality. Today, everyone can go to college, be hired, or take the bus without major discrimination issues. Black, white, man, woman; everyone are equal as they should be.
However, things were not always this way. First of all, it wasn’t until January 31, 1865 that slavery was abolished by the thirteenth amendment, a result of the Civil War.
After that, discrimination continued through Jim Crow laws and black codes. Those laws were slowly repealed during the Civil Rights Movement with the different cases that the Supreme Courts had to judge.
The Civil Rights Movement was brought by great leaders who fought for their beliefs. One of them is Martin Luther King Jr., an African-American from Georgia who lead a series of non-violent protests in the country.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist. His combat against racial inequality through nonviolent resistance brought him, in 1964, the Nobel Peace Prize.
He started his involvement in 1955 Montgomery bus boycott; a movement initiated to protest against the discrimination laws in the Montgomery Bus that forced Blacks to leave their seat to white if the White-Only section was already full. He is mostly famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
Many people ask why we celebrate his birthday. Actually, after King’s death, the U.S. Representative John Conyers (Democrat) and the U.S. Senator Edward Brooke (Republican) proposed a bill in Congress to make King’s birthday a national holiday. Back then, only two persons had a federal holiday in their honors, George Washington and Christopher Columbus.
A new paid holiday would have “cost” too much for the corporations of the country. Two propositions were offered to resolve this issue; the Proposition 301, which replaced Columbus Day on the list of paid state holidays, and the Proposition 302, which merged Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays into one paid holiday to make room for MLK Day. Finally, the Proposition 302 was adopted.
The history of the implantation of the holiday finished on May 2, 2000. The South Carolina governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make King’s birthday an official state holiday. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for all state employees. Prior to this, employees could choose between celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day or one of three Confederate holidays.
The history of the United States of America is full of diverse ups and downs, with countless movements advocating for change. The rights that we enjoy today were hard fought by great individuals like MLK Jr. that sacrificed their lives to make our country better.