Diversity Awareness: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
    April 16, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail

    In 1994, the US Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service 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.” Martin Luther King, Jr. is most well-known for his campaign to end racial segregation and cultivate racial equality in the United States. Today, monuments honoring MLK are displayed in Washington DC and cities throughout the US as well as countries around the globe including England (at Westminster Abbey), Cuba, Australia, Kenya, Sweden and Jerusalem.

    2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the prize on October 14, 1964 for the use of civil disobedience and other non-violent means to advance his work.

    At the time, he was the youngest recipient at age 35, and only the second African American to be awarded the prize. He donated the prize money, valued at approximately $54,000 to the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. adhered to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. He was arrested a total of 29 times for his nonviolent demonstrations, which included boycotts, marches and sit-ins. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Martin Luther King stated “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

    This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act, enacted on July 2, 1964 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Additionally, the law provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.

    ...DID YOU KNOW?

    • ALL 50 STATES DID NOT OBSERVE MLK DAY UNTIL 2000: Despite its enactment in 1983, all 50 states did not recognize MLK Day until 17 years later.
    • IMPROV: Martin Luther King improvised the most recognizable memorable parts of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones.
    • ONE OF THREE: Martin Luther King is only the third American whose birthday is commemorated as a Federal Holiday. The other two are George Washington and Christopher Columbus.
    • INTESTATE: Unfortunately, Martin Luther King Jr. died without a will. Years ago, MLK’s heirs formed a corporation to manage his estate, but have fought for years over the use and intellectual property of the leader’s written speeches and image.


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