The Assassination that shaped a nation

Written by Natalie Drouhard, design editor

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For as long as I’ve been alive, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day has been observed as a national holiday, but it took 15 years after his death for it to even become a holiday. The holiday has always been a day that’s affected my school life as a day off, but now as I grow older, I realize it’s so much more than that. MLK was the human embodiment of the Civil Rights movement, from the non-violent tactics to the multiple attempts on his life that never deterred him. 

According to History.com, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and the fight for him to be honored with a national holiday started immediately. John Conyers, a black congressman from Michigan, presented the bill every year for Martin Luther King, Jr. to be honored with a national holiday. Finally, it was passed in 1983 with President Reagan’s support. It wasn’t until 1986 that the holiday was officially celebrated, and it wasn’t until 2000 when every state celebrated it.

Now in 2020, it seems like it should be obvious why we celebrate. The day was celebrated in affiliation with Confederate slaveholders such as Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate army. Lee shares a birthday with MLK, making it convenient for dual recognition. To this day, some people prefer to celebrate Lee over MLK, despite the large difference in their effects on the United States. I can’t understand why anyone would do that, unless they are just uneducated about the holiday and the importance of it, not only to African Americans, but to the United States as a nation. 

Ever since visiting Montgomery, Ala., and touring the museums, I have been battling white guilt and how I could possibly ever make up for my ancestors’ part in the business of racial inequality. Obviously, I can’t change anything from the past, but I can try to help better the future. African American history is our history too, and it’s just as important that we honor our part and do better. This starts with little things like truly acknowledging everything Martin Luther King, Jr., did. He sacrificed his life and his family members’ lives every day to fight for others and what he believed to be right. MLK never called for violence, despite his house being bombed or his being stabbed at a book signing. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a hero who spoke with powerful words and even stronger actions. If we all aim to be even a quarter of the human he was, we could change the world.