Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a vital figure of the modern era and a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.
Following in the footsteps of his father, in February 1948, at the age of 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. entered the Christian ministry and was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In 1954, upon completion of graduate studies at Boston University, he accepted a call to serve at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, he was an instrumental leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, made famous by the nonviolent resistance and arrest of Rosa Parks. He resigned this position in 1959 to move back to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1960 until his death in 1968, he also served as co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Dr. King was arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities.
While Dr. King preached about justice, empowerment, love and peace, in the final months of his life, his attention was turned to fighting poverty. Sadly, more Americans live in poverty today than during Dr. King’s lifetime. Forty-seven million Americans currently fall below the poverty line.
Dr. King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and died on April 4, 1968. He had gone to Memphis to help lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and intolerable working conditions.
After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The federal holiday was first observed in 1986, making 2011 the 25th anniversary of the King federal holiday.
The idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday was promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations. After King’s death, United States Representative John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) introduced a bill in Congress to make King’s birthday a national holiday. Then Musician Stevie Wonder released the single “Happy Birthday” to popularize the campaign in 1980. It features Wonder lamenting the fact that anyone would oppose the idea of a Dr. King holiday, where “peace is celebrated throughout the world” and singing to King in the chorus, “Happy birthday to you”. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.”
If you want to have the lyrics, just click on this link: Happy Birthday lyrics Stevie Wonder
Some facts About Martin Luther King.
– The official website of The King Center in Atlanta, Georgia:
– The famous “I have a dream” speech, with video footage and the full transcription of his most historical words:
– His biography, from the pages of the BBC History homepage:
– 10 Important places in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
– Martin Luther King Quotes to Remember:
– A newspaper article about the inauguration of President Obama and his connections to Dr. King’s legacy, as well as a BBC video about the feeling this moment brings to his fellow Americans:
– And if you like things about speechwriters and “ghosts”, here is an interesting article on the speech coming at Obama’s inauguration: