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Cartoon Fun 
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Midi plays once although we list all 6 verses at bottom of the page.
 Song is "We Shall Over Come" by Pete Seeger. 


(We used this for our Juneteeth Observance also. We felt it fits for both days.)

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is January 15, 1929.  But the observance is always the third Monday in January, regardless of what date if falls on.

Who was Martin Luther King, Jr?  He was a PK, or preacher's kid.  His father was Martin Luther King, Sr. and the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King did not achieve national importance until 1955 when he lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.  The boycott was focused around a black seamstress named Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger and was fined $14.  Mr. King's intention for this boycott was to end segregation in the city's transit system.

Later, in 1960, Martin Luther King was chosen to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  This organization gave him his foundation he needed to expand his civil rights campaign throughout the South.  Martin Luther King, Jr. organized many protests and marches.  His most famous was his 1963 "March on Washington" where he delivered his infamous speech titled, "I Have A Dream."

Throughout his entire life, he practiced nonviolent resistance and promoted peaceful protest against segregational  practices in the United States. 

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize!

Four years later, he was assassinated.  On April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee Martin Luther King, Jr. had come to help organize a strike of the city's sanitation workers who were mostly black.  While standing on the balcony outside his motel room, James Earl Ray shot him.  In over 120 American cities, riots broke out that year!  This violence escalated into the type that Martin Luther King, Jr. had worked so hard to prevent.

 

U.S. Representative John Conyers (D -Michigan) called for a holiday honoring Dr. King 8 days after he was killed.  The bill got stalled in Congress. So a petition of over 6 million names was then submitted.  Resubmissions were then presented again by John Conyers and also Shirley Chisholm (D- New York) at every subsequent session of Congress.  It took 15 years for his birthday to become a holiday.

In 1983 Congress passed the legislation and President Ronald Reagan signed it into law. One of the hassles of getting this enacted was the date January 15.  Many said it was a holiday too close to Christmas and New Years. So, to compromise, it was decided to make it the third Monday in January. This moving of the date,  helped get the holiday passed.

Not everyone was happy about this holiday, regardless of the date it was on. Many said that Martin Luther King, Jr.  (one man) did not deserve to have his own holiday. Instead, that the civil rights movement (representing a group) should somehow get honored. Because of this, some states renamed it Human Rights Day  or Civil Rights Day.  States were not so eager to adopt this holiday when it officially went into effect in 1986.  By 1989 44 of the 50 states adopted it.  And, in 1999 New Hampshire was the last state to adopt Martin Luther King's Birthday Holiday.

 

 Of course, Atlanta, Georgia was the first city to designate his birthday as a paid holiday for all city employees in 1971.  But it was the state of Illinois, in 1973, that was the first to declare January 15 a statewide holiday.

January 15, 1981 would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 52nd birthday.  At the Washington Monument in D.C. over 100,000 people gathered to rally in support of a national holiday.  Legislation was finally passed 2 years later, in 1983, declaring the third Monday in January to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the 10th national holiday that Congress has approved. And, it's the ONLY holiday honoring an American, other than a past president. Note: I know we also have Columbus Day as a holiday for a person too. But Columbus was never an American.

Some feel that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s greatest talent was giving speeches.  His speech on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. instantly became a symbol for the civil rights movement at the time.  Approximately 250,000 people heard this speech at the memorial.  They had assembled there during the famous March on Washington to win the support of Congress and the president for pending civil rights legislation.  When King was assassinated 5 years later, his "I Have A Dream" speech also became a symbol of his lifelong effort to end segregation through nonviolent means.

While giving his speech, King repeated "I have a dream" several times, each time building the intensity of his message.  Those close to King at the time, say that days before he gave this speech he spent days working on it.  He would agonize over every paragraph, sentence and punctuation mark.  It was almost as if he knew this speech would be the one he would most be remembered for.

Today, excerpts from the "I Have A Dream" speech can be heard on television and radio around the time of Martin Luther King, Jr's holiday.  Many times, the speech is also accompanied by the song "We Shall Overcome" which is also widely regarded as the civil rights movement theme song.

Below is a excerpt from his speech:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream 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 a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four 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. I have a dream today.

To read the entire speech, visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. page from Stanford University.

Lyrics to our midi:

Verse 1:  We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day.

  Chorus

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.

Verse 2: We are not afraid, we are not afraid, 
      We are not afraid  today.       
{Then  repeat chorus}

Verse 3: We are not alone, we are not alone,
  we are not alone  today.       
{Then  repeat chorus}

Verse 4: The truth will make us free, the truth will make us free,
the truth will make us free some day.   
{Then  repeat chorus}

Verse 5: We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand,
we'll walk hand in hand some day.  

{Then  repeat chorus}

Verse 6: Black and white together now, black and white together now,
black and white together now. 

 

Return to our January Monthly Holidays Listing

Source of Information:
"Holidays, Symbols & Customs  3rd Edition"
By Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. © 2003

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