What is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
It is an American holiday to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Who was Martin Luther King Jr.?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States in 1929. At that time in America, black people didn’t have the same rights as white people. Black people had to sit in the back of buses. The schools were separated by skin color and there were even separate public restrooms for black people and white people. This was called segregation. Black people’s lives were not very good.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister in the Baptist Church. He fought against racial segregation. He wanted equal rights for all people, but he didn’t use violence in his fight. He asked people to fight peacefully. For example, he asked black people to ride in the front of the bus. More than 200,000 people went to Washington D.C. to listen to him speak and ask the government to change unfair laws.
Because of Martin Luther King Jr., many laws began to change in the United States. But many white people disagreed with him and his ways. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated(1) by a white man.
Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Just 15 years later, in 1983, then President Ronald Reagan signed this holiday into U.S. law. People first observed(2) the holiday three years later, in 1986. At first, the holiday was not popular with all American states. Some didn’t like the name and so they called it “Civil Rights Day”. However, in the year 2000, all 50 states observed the holiday using its correct name. The musician, Stevie Wonder helped the campaign(3) for the holiday. He released(4) a famous song called “Happy Birthday” in 1980. The song made millions of Americans aware of the campaign. Six million people signed a petition(5) for the American Congress to create the holiday. It is still the largest petition in U.S. history in favor of an issue.
Check out Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song here!
Many African-Americans also sing this song during birthday celebrations!
Martin Luther King, Jr. (5minuteenglish.com)
ESL Holiday Lessons: English Lesson on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
(1) To assassinate – verb – to kill someone important or famous
(2) To observe – verb- to obey a law, rule, or custom
(3) Campaign– noun- a plan with of a number of activities directed toward reaching a goal
(4) To release– verb– to make a product available for the public to buy, often with a celebration;
(5) Petition– noun– a document signed by a large number of people demanding or asking for some action from the government