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Martin Luther King Day 2023

The Stone of Hope, a granite statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., stands at his memorial in Washington, DC.

On the third Monday of each January, Americans honor the memory of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King Day 2023
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On the third Monday of each January, Americans honor the memory of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a Baptist minister from the southern state of Alabama, and a leader in the fight against racial inequality in the United States. On January 15th, he would have celebrated his 94th birthday.

The one hundred years or so that began in 1865 with the end of the U.S. Civil war and the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery, and the upheavals of the late 1960s, when hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to demand civil rights protections for politically under-represented groups including racial minorities and women, most of the African American population was subject to so-called Jim Crow laws.

These were state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation and blatant discrimination, which were then violently enforced by government authorities and civilian vigilante groups. African Americans who sought to change this system of virtual apartheid were met with disproportionate violence that all too often resulted in the activists’ death.

In this atmosphere, Dr. King, who adhered to Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of nonviolent protest, led his followers in staging mass-action boycotts, sit-ins, peaceful marches and other non-violent acts of civil disobedience. The frequently extreme retaliation against the protestors only served to demonstrate to the rest of the country the urgent need for change.

Dr. King’s, and the Civil Rights Movement’s years-long push for more equitable treatment under the law culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public places, as well as employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin.

Dr. King did not have the luxury of time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. Nonetheless, within a decade, segregationist laws were repealed, and today discrimination is a reviled and legally punishable offence.

“Today, people of all backgrounds continue that march — raising their voices to confront abuses of power, challenge hate and discrimination, protect the right to vote, and access quality jobs, health care, housing, and education,” said President Joe Biden. “On this day, we reflect on the legacy of a man who issued a call to the conscience of our Nation and our world.”