Letter from Damon Cleveland to President Reagan Urging the Creation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday
Several students from the P.S. 241 school in Brooklyn, New York wrote letters to President Reagan shortly after his inauguration, urging him to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday.
On November 2, 1983, President Reagan signed the Act of Congress that created the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday to occur on the third Monday in January.
"Please put this at the top of your list of things to do."
from the Presidential Timeline
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a civil rights meeting with Lyndon B. Johnson. Cabinet Room in the White House, January 18, 1964.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday became a federal holiday on November 2, 1983. The initial legislative proposal for the holiday was drafted by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. in 1968, following King’s assassination. It would take 15 years, and ongoing efforts by King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, for the bill to pass.
President Reagan signed the bill into law outside of the White House with Coretta Scott King by his side. In his remarks he said:
In 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down by a brutal assassin, his life cut short at the age of 39. But those 39 short years had changed America forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had guaranteed all Americans equal use of public accommodations, equal access to programs financed by Federal funds, and the right to compete for employment on the sole basis of individual merit. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had made certain that from then on black Americans would get to vote. But most important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.”
-from the LBJ and Reagan Libraries
Coretta Scott King looks out from the Oval Office
On the day this photo was taken, Mrs. King, the widow of MLK, was at the White House for the signing ceremony of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday legislation. President Reagan signed the Bill that made the birthday of MLK a national holiday.
November 2, 1983
-from the Reagan Library archives
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.
In August 1963, more than 200,000 Americans celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation by joining the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Key civil rights figures led the march, including A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Whitney Young. But the most memorable moment came when Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
This photo is a wide-angle view of marchers along the mall, showing the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. August 28, 1963.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened this week in D.C. His memorial is the first on the National Mall to be dedicated to an individual other than a U.S. president.
"It seemed as if every time he spoke, he said something I wanted or needed to hear" said Rosa Parks of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pictured here, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. MLK in the crowd at the March. Leaders of the March meeting with President Kennedy in the White House. August 28, 1963.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial opened this week in Washington D.C. More posts to come in celebration of Dr. King and the anniversary of the March on Washington D.C.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
"This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. It’s only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny."
-President Lyndon B. Johnson
Tomorrow will mark 46 years since LBJ signed the Voting Right Act into law. The Act outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.
Here’s President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders look on. August 6, 1965
The Civil Rights Act was signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. We’ll be celebrating this event through the weekend with more posts, pictures, and documents.
Here, Martin Luther King, Jr. talks with Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office. December 3, 1963.