Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Florida

On January 21, 2013 by Kevin Forde
Martin Luther King Jr Day in Florida

Martin Luther King Jr and President Lyndon B. Johnson

The third Monday of each January is officially Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US. The quest to have this day recognised as a holiday began shortly after the civil rights activist’s assassination in 1968. The federal government would take almost 20 years to recognise King’s birthday as a national holiday and even longer for all the individual states to recognise the day.

The US only has two other national holidays celebrating US citizens: Chris Columbus and George Washington, so getting a third figure on the books was always going to be difficult. The holiday was first proposed by Representative John Conyers and Senator Edward Brooke when they introduced a bill in Congress to have King’s birthday become a national holiday. The vote took place in the house of Representatives in 1979 and fell five short of getting passed.¬† It seemed some Representatives thought another holiday celebrating a private citizen would prove too expensive to this most capitalist of nations.

The King Centre turned to the public for support. Once they had Stevie Wonder on their side, failure wasn’t an option. His single Happy Birthday helped popularise the campaign while also finally giving the world an alternative to the traditional birthday anthem. Wonder also hosted the Rally for Peace in 1981, a six million strong petition soon followed. President Reagan eventually (and reluctantly) signed the bill creating a public holiday in 1983. It was first observed on January 20 1986.

Not that every state was happy to recognise the holiday initially. A number of Senators questioned whether King was important enough of a figure to have a national holiday. President Reagan felt that it was too expensive. Senator John McCain also voted against the creation of the holiday, though later changed his position. in 2000 South Carolina became the last state to recognise Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

So what has Florida got planned? Well, Miami has the Martin Luther King Parade which takes place from 11am to around 2pm on January 21 2013. In Florida City the South Florida Urban Ministries will honour King through a day of community service. It will spend the day making Florida City and Lakeview all pretty. Fort Lauderdale gets in on the action with its own parade celebrating the great orator while Hallandale Beach hosts its annual Scholarship Gala, parade and festival over the weekend. Not to be left out, Deerfield Beach  has a birthday celebration with a parade beginning from 10am.

These, of course, are just a small snapshot of the events going on over the weekend.

How is your area celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day?