Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 is January 15. The campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday began shortly after his assassination in 1968, but the holiday didn’t become a reality for another decade and a half when President Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983. You probably recall some of the controversy surrounding this holiday, but did you know … ?
- The idea to honor Martin Luther King Jr. was opposed primarily because of the expense to give all federal employees a paid day off. Not to mention, there are no other national holidays honoring private citizens (MLK never held public office), and sadly, some politicians didn’t believe Dr. King was important enough.
- While MLK Day became a federal holiday in 1983, not all states chose to observe it at the state level right away. In fact, Arizona allowed voters to make their own decision in 1990, and there was a lot more than a state holiday riding on this vote. The National Football League announced that if the proposition didn’t pass, they’d move the Super Bowl, which was planned to be played in Arizona in 1993. Apparently, the threat didn’t have as much impact as they’d hoped because Arizonians voted “no,” and the Super Bowl was played in Pasadena that year.
- For years, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Virginia have celebrated Dr. King’s and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthdays on the same day. While Virginia and Arkansas have since separated the holidays, Alabama and Mississippi still commemorate these two diametrically opposed figures on the third Monday of January.
- President Bill Clinton gave this day even greater meaning when he signed Martin Luther King Day of Service into law. This law encouraged citizens to give back by participating in volunteer service on this day. On MLK Day in 2010, President Barack Obama could be found serving food at a Washington, D.C. soup kitchen.
- The holiday is also celebrated outside the U.S. in both Toronto and Hiroshima.