The establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) federal holiday was passed in 1983. It was celebrated nationally on the 3rd Monday of January in 1986. The legislation for this holiday was first introduced in 1968 and blocked in Congress. MLK believed in nonviolence and pushed for civil rights for African Americans during the 1960s. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39 years old.
African American men were allowed to vote in 1870. However, African American women were not. During that time, many African American men were elected to Congress. The Southern States implemented rules in the 1890’s to discourage them from voting and to ensue they would not participate in ruling this country.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in public spaces and employment. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was also passed, to include all Americans in the voting process. Consequently, The Voting Rights Act had been extended by Congress in 1970, 1975, and 1982 to address all irregularities related to voting and federal oversight. However, in 2013, the Supreme Court declared the key provisions in the act that involved federal oversight of voting rules in nine states (archives.gov/milestone-document/15th-amendment) was unconstitutional and not needed. Most recently, the 117th Congress failed to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in 2021. The bill would have addressed voter registration, access and integrity, security, redistricting, and campaign finance, as well as establishing the Election Day as a federal holiday (www.congressDC.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5746).
As you celebrate the day, think about the reason for the holiday. Think about what you can personally do to encourage your congressional representative to support the passage of the voting rights bill when it comes up again for a vote in Congress.
Below of some of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
“A man can not ride your back if it’s not bent.”