Why we have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

MLK image
MLK giving his now legendary “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, during the 1963 March on Washington.

Wondering why you don’t have school on Monday? Well, every year, on the third Monday of January, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day to honor one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders.

MLK was a Christian preacher who advanced equal rights for blacks in the 1950s and 1960s before his assassination in 1968 by James Earl Ray. Rather than promoting revenge and aggression, MLK encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience, where his followers would protest unfair laws by breaking them and risking arrest. Even if officers used force, MLK’s followers practiced peaceful resistance.

Their example inspired a national movement, pressuring politicians like President Lyndon B. Johnson and members of Congress into passing laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These laws helped overturn unfair discrimination practices against blacks. The reverend gave many courageous speeches in his lifetime, like his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

His quotes still ring true to this day. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” he said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So, as you enjoy your day off on Monday, meditate on MLK’s words, for he believed, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Featured image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society on Wikipedia.