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Chris Jan. 18, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929. His birthday was celebrated today, as it is every third Monday in January, as a federal and state holiday. Federally it is just called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In Arizona and New Hampshire it is known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Civl Rights Day. In Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi Dr. King’s birthday is celebrated with Robert E. Lee’s birthday (Gen. Lee was born on Jan. 19…is that the only reason for the shared holiday in those states).

I like including civil rights in the name of the holiday. That is not to take away from Dr. King but to add to the spirit of the day. The Civil Rights movement was more than any of its individual leaders and deserves celebration. It was a collaborative struggle that spanned decades, if not centuries. I have long thought that civil rights was the most significant development in United States history. For all of the individual rights and freedoms declared in the Declaration of Independence and later enshrined in the Constitution, there was still that whole slavery thing we had until the end of the Civil War. Then there was legal segregation for another century. Legal segregation was eventually defeated through litigation. Public discrimination was eventually outlawed through legislation. Individual discrimination and racial relations can still use some improvement but have moved in the right direction. Dr. King inspired and motivated millions and brought the movement public attention and support. Now, forty-eight years after his death, he is still an inspiration.

I posted a similar picture to this last year:

Ten years after Brown v. Board of Education, Pres. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which effectively banned discrimination in public accomodations and in employment among other achievements. He handed a pen to Dr. King who was present at the signing. I posted the picture not to put a white spin on black history (the way so many Hollywood films do), but to show the effort and collaboration that went into the most significant piece of legislation in American history. The law would not have been passed by Congress or signed by a president had it not been for the efforts of Dr. King and a great many civil rights workers that made it possible for it to be passed by Congress and signed by a president (the law also greatly changed the political alignment and strategies for the next fifty-plus years).

There are countless heroes of the civil rights movement, from King to Thurgood Marshall to the freedom riders and scores of ordinary people who decided that enough was enough and took a stand. I cannot even try to explain what Dr. King means to black people. I can say with certainty that he was an indispensable part of the most important movement in American history and for that he–along with the movement itself–should be celebrated.