Learn about the civil rights leader responsible for your three-day weekend.
1. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t just become the leader of the civil right movement: He helped to start it.
In response to Rosa Parks’ famous refusal to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger, King led the black community in Montgomery, Alabama, in the first nonviolent civil rights demonstration in the United States in 1955. Their bus boycott lasted for 382 days (that’s more than a year of finding another way to get to work!), until the United States Supreme Court ruled that laws segregating buses were unconstitutional.
2. In his efforts to fight segregation and inequality, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times.
As he noted in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (read the full text) King served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which had more than 80 affiliated organizations throughout the South. Why not just telephone, instead of constantly being on the road? “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham,” King wrote. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
3. He was a preacher, an orator, a community organizer—and a dad.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King had four children: Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott and Bernice Albertine. He gave them a beautiful shout-out in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech: “I have a dream my four little 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.”
4. King didn’t just focus on civil rights.
In 1966, he began a campaign against poverty and urban inequality. A follower of Gandhi’s non-violent principles, King also objected to the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War. And it was his support of a sanitation workers’ strike that took him to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
5. MLK is the only non-president with a national holiday in his honor.
Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday, your kids likely have off from school. Think about volunteering together in MLK’s honor.