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January 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 1

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at home on Tuesday, January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His parents were Martin Luther, Sr. and Alberta King. He had an older sister, Christine and a younger brother, Alfred.

He was born into a world where segregation was the law. Where his boyhood best friend, who was white, wasn't allowed to play with him once they started school. Where black people went to separate bathrooms, drank from separate water fountains, couldn't eat in "white's only" restaurants, and had to give up their seats on buses if a white person wanted it.

King first gained national recognition as a leader in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56. His eloquence and his book, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), describing the boycott and his philosophy of nonviolent direct action bases on Christian brotherhood and the tactics of Mohandas Gandhi, among others, established him as the voice and conscience of the emerging civil-rights movement. (1)

Over time, King's message of brotherhood and ending any discrimination became so universally accepted that public figures of all stripes invoked King's name to justify their stands on any number of issues. (1)

It took 15 years for Martin's birthday to become a national holiday and it wasn't easy. There was fierce opposition from several sources, not the least of which was Senator Jesse Helms (Republican, North Carolina), he accused Martin of being a communist. There were also those who said that others deserved to have their birthdays honored more, that taxes would be intolerable, that having to pay federal employees whether they worked or not was going to be bad for taxpayers. "Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics, 'I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination'." Four days after Martin was killed, Representative John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) submitted legislation for his birthday to be made into a holiday. In 1970, 6 million people signed a petition (it's believed to be the largest number ever to sign a petition) to have Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday made into a holiday.


A Martin Luther King Jr. website:

(1) Milestones of the 20th Century, Copyright 1999, Grolier Inc. "Giants of the 20th Century- Martin Luther King Jr." by Randall M. Miller.

For more on Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrating Black History Month - - - click on these articles from PresidioNews


January 2000 - Volume 3 Issue 1 - Articles