On this day in 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is born. Buttons like these, part of the museum's political history collections, were worn to express support for creating a federal holiday in King's honor. #MLKDay
King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, transformed the civil rights leader into an icon of the struggle to fulfill the American promise of equality for all. On April 8, 1968, just four days after King's assassination, Congressman John Conyers introduced a bill to establish a federal holiday in his honor. For supporters of the legislation, the holiday was an effort to place Dr. King and the civil rights movement into the national narrative. Advocates of #MLKDay faced strong resistance, however, which required years of organizing to overcome. In 1983, the King Holiday bill was signed into law. Initially, only twenty-seven states officially acknowledged the holiday, and it was not until until the year 2000 that all fifty U.S. states recognized #MLKDay.
The campaign to establish #MLKDay raises questions central to the American experience. Do we need a shared national identity? And if there are to be common beliefs and a national narrative that expresses the values of our nation, what should be included? Follow the link in our bio to see how we explore these questions through the prism of #MLKDay in our exhibition, "American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith." #MLKDay #MLKWeekend #AmericanHistory #NationalHolidays #CivilRightsMovement #NationWebBuildTogether