Since 1986, Martin Luther King Jr., a federal holiday, has been held in the United States on the third Monday in January. The New York Stock Exchange will be closed, as will most schools, large companies and departments considered non-essential.
As it is a relatively recent holiday, there is still no festive tradition to mark the day that pays homage to the life and achievements of the most famous proponent of the end of racial segregation on American soil. But the history of this holiday is almost as many years old as those that have passed since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Shortly after he died, at 19:05 pm on April 4, a campaign was launched to make his birthday, January 15, a public holiday. Union unions lead the process. The North American Congress, which has the competence to establish federal holidays in the USA, only approved it in 1986, after a petition that gathered about six million signatures and the sponsorship of the musician Stevie Wonder, with the song "Happy Birthday".
Eternalized by the speech “I have a dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. marked generations for the movement that defended racial equality. He was murdered in Memphis after an action to support the African American community, health service officials in this Tennessee city. They demanded equality in working conditions and wages. At the time, the mayor (position equivalent to that of mayor in Portugal) Henry Loeb paid lower wages to black workers compared to Caucasian employees. There were no uniforms, toilets, recognized unions or collective labor contracts for these workers, thus being victims of discrimination.
Martin Luther King Jr. left an important and intergenerational legacy in a country that suffers from social problems, such as racism. In 2004, American politics took a decisive step in racial equality by electing the first black president in US history, Barack Obama, and in November 2020 the first black vice president, Kamala Harris.