The Person Behind Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Coretta Scott King
Written by: Dr. Leah Leach
Did you know that the reason why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day is because of the tireless dedication of his widow, Coretta Scott King?
In her book, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr., she wrote, “Because his task was not finished, I felt that I must re-dedicate myself to the completion of his work.”
Coretta was not a sideline character to the movement. Coretta was a highly-educated woman and an active participant of peace. She was involved with civil rights issues before meeting Martin, and she continued past his death.
Coretta was one of the most influential leaders in the world. She embraced nonviolent practice that she learned from the close friends of Mahatma Gandhi. Corretta was in the media mostly for her work in civil rights, but she also spoke out on behalf of the rights of women, children, the LGBTQ community, and the poor. She was a voice for racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, and nuclear disarmament.
Learn more about why Coretta was so passionate about justice and equality in our video about her journey.
From 1968, after Dr. King’s death, to 1983, Coretta worked with many others and campaigned for a federal holiday. The bill that became law was brought to the President by Indiana Representative Katie Hall.
Even though the holiday was signed into law, some states still resisted observing the holiday. It was not until 2000 that all 50 states officially observed the federal holiday.
The United States celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the third Monday of every January. Why January? Martin’s birthday is January 15.
Why have a day of remembrance?
Martin Luther King Jr Day is a holiday to take a moment to honor the achievements of this nonviolent activist for Civil Rights.
The day is commonly celebrated with marches, parades, or listening to his speeches.
Dr. King was an icon of the Civil Rights movement; by remembering his message (even if it is only one day a year), his spark of peace and equality can keep lit in the eyes of the nation for generations to come.
Do any other countries celebrate Martin Luther King Jr?
Yes, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the Netherlands recognize the day even if it is not a day off from school or work.
Keep the conversation going! Wonderful teachers, here is a downloadable for your students to either start a guided conversation or use as an independent worksheet.