Businesses and schools across the country were closed yesterday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. It remembers the legacy left behind by one of the most famous Civil Rights leaders in American history.
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader, who is well-known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed,” King said in his speech. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20th, 1986. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
Here in Bethel, local businesses and schools were closed in observation of the works of the famous civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968. Blanche Jacobs, who was a young girl living in Philadelphia at the time, recalls taking the bus with her sisters to hear King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Jacobs, who now lives in Bethel, first moved here as Vista Volunteer in 1968.
“I always remember that incredible sight of so many human beings with various signs and banners, you know, and we heard Dr. King give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Jacobs said. “It was incredible. It really made an impression on me; I believe on millions of people who heard him. And we were just so fortunate to be there. And it’s one of those days that I treasure forever because it certainly had an impact on me to know what other human beings in the country have had to go through, you know, just to have basic rights. It was an Earth-shaking event for me.”
“I have a Dream,” King went on in his speech, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39.