TeacherVision - Lesson Plans, Printables and more Free Trial  Member Benefits  Sign In    
Click Here
Apr 1, 2015
Search:   
We have merged TeacherVision's international content onto one website. Educators around the world can use TeacherVision.com to browse an extensive library of teaching materials. You can still find relevant content for Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States in our Educators' Calendars.  [x] CLOSE
|
 

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day


Page 1 of 2

Every year, federal facilities, schools, and banks across the country observe the third Monday in January as a holiday in memory of the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It took 15 years, millions upon millions of signatures, and the committed efforts of many dedicated people to turn King's birthday into a national holiday.

Along the way, those who sought a formal national observance of Dr. King's contribution to American life were told that what they sought was unprecedented, impossible, too costly, or too radical. In hindsight, it is tempting to conclude that simple racial bias was one of the major reasons some American lawmakers waited a decade and a half to set aside a day of remembrance for the greatest civil rights leader of them all.

Resistance

Among the reasons that were cited in opposition to the national observance of Martin Luther King day were the following:

  • The campaign for the holiday (which began almost immediately after King's death) was too close to contemporary events, and would not withstand the test of time.
  • The campaign for the holiday (which had continued steadily through the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations) was built around events that were far in the past, and was not necessary given the changes in America that had taken place since King's death.
  • The country had set aside holidays for specific individuals only twice in its history (for George Washington and Christopher Columbus); those in opposition to the new holiday implied that honoring Dr. King could somehow begin a trend toward honoring figures with only narrow, sectarian appeal. In response to this criticism, the comedian Richard Pryor, appearing on the Tonight show, pointed out that African-Americans weren't seeking a day to honor Wilt Chamberlain, but the man who had delivered the “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The holiday was too expensive, given the overtime and paid-time-off expenses associated with any national holiday. To those who made this objection, Senator Robert Dole of Kansas said, “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.”
  • The holiday was somehow meant exclusively for African-American people. Those who voiced (or subtly implied) this objection had obviously missed the philosophy of inclusion and participation that guided Dr. King's mission. The notion that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution applies equally to all people and that the Constitution itself is color-blind are not African-American ideas. They are American ideas. The principle that we should each be judged according to the content of our characters and that we should have the opportunity to move toward the highest aspirations we select without facing discrimination or bias are not African-American ideals. They are American ideals.
The Adoption of the King Holiday—a Timeline
April 4, 1968Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
April 8, 1968Rep. John Conyers of Michigan proposes legislation to make King's birthday a national holiday. The sitting Congress ignores the bill.
January 1969Over a thousand auto workers at a Tarrytown, New York, plant take a day off from work to celebrate King's birthday. Suspensions greet 60 of the workers; management threatens many other workers with formal reprisals.
March 1970Six million signatures in support of a national King holiday arrive in Washington. Representative Conyers and Representative Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, begin the process of conducting Congressional hearings.
January 1981Seattle dockworkers are fired shortly after passing out literature in support of a formal King holiday.
1982 and 1983Major marches in support of voting rights and the King legacy continue to place pressure on Congress. Petition drives continue.
August 1983The House of Representatives passes a bill honoring Dr. King's birthday.
October 1983Despite persistent efforts by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, the Senate passes the King holiday bill.
November 1983President Reagan signs the measure into law.
January 20, 1986Dr. King's birthday is observed as a federal holiday for the first time.


 Previous   1   2   Next 

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to African-American History © 2003 by Melba J. Duncan. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


Free 7-Day Trial for TeacherVision®

Sign up for a free trial and get access
to our huge library of teaching materials!
Start Trial

Highlights

Children's Choice Book Awards
We love books! Encourage students to vote for their favorite children's book, author, and illustrator of the year at Funbrain and Poptropica. Teens can make their picks too. Read the complete list of nominated books, as well as related activities, and get voting!

April Calendar of Events
April is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: April Fool's Day (begins 4/1), Passover (begins sundown 4/3), Easter (4/5), Name Yourself Day (4/9), Encourage a Young Writer Day (4/10), Library Week (4/12-18), Volunteer Week (4/12-18), Holocaust Remembrance Day (begins sundown 4/15), Poison Prevention Week (4/15-21), Earth Day (4/22), Tell a Story Day (4/27), International Jazz Day (4/30). Plus, celebrate Deaf History Month (3/15-4/15), Mathematics Education Month, National Poetry Month, and Youth Sports Safety Month!

Teaching with Comics: Galactic Hot Dogs
Reach reluctant readers and English-language learners with comics! Our original teaching guides to the Galactic Hot Dogs comic series (chapters 1-4 and 5-8), as found on Funbrain.com, will take students on a cosmic adventure while engaging their creative minds. Plus, find even more activities for teaching with comics, featuring many other classic stories.

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.