Another flag flying holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, or MLK Day, is here — this year, 2017, it’s January 16. It’s always the third Monday in January. Ronald Reagan made it a federal holiday in 1983, but it wasn’t observed until 1986 — and not all the states were immediately on board with it. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that Utah finally joined in and all 50 states officially observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was actually born Michael Luther King, Jr.? In order to honor the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther, his father, Michael Luther King, Sr., changed his name to Martin. Michael Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and changed his name to Martin as well.
Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and went to school at the Booker T. Washington High School where, as a very bright student, he skipped two grades. In spite of his father and grandfather both being ministers, as a young man he actually questioned religion; and, it wasn’t until his senior year that he decided to go into the ministry himself. He attended Morehouse College where he earned a sociology degree when he was only 19 years old, and went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class. While he was working on his doctorate at Boston University, he met and married Coretta Scott. He became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and completed his Ph.D. in 1955 when he was only 25 years old. He and his wife had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice.
Martin Luther King, Jr. remains the most famous African-American leader of his era. His career was famously centered around civil rights, and at age thirty-five, he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated the $54,123 prize money to the civil rights movement. About 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on 28 August 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. had organized a march to show the importance of solving the nation’s racial problems. This is where his most iconic quote originated — “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
He was gunned down at a crusade for a labor strike in Memphis in the spring of 1968 by a sniper named James Earl Ray. His legacy lives on as a civil rights icon. Many have taken to flying the African-American flag along with the US Flag to show support for the equal rights he fought so hard for throughout his life.
The African-American flag, or Pan-African flag is also known as the UNIA flag, Afro-American flag or Black Liberation flag, is a tri-color flag consisting of three equal horizontal bands colored red, black and green. The red stripe symbolizes the blood that unites all people of black African ancestry, the black stands for all black people, and green represents the abundant natural wealth of Africa. The flag became a symbol for the worldwide liberation of people of African origin; and, as an emblem of black pride, was popular in the 1960s during the black liberation movement.
So get those flags flying and since it’s also a day of service, why not find a way to volunteer? To give of your time is the most precious of gifts.