Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 is the subject of the January 15, 2018 Google Doodle that honors the day celebrating the civil rights legend and his legacy of “justice, peace and reconciliation.”
“Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Baptist minister, Nobel Laureate, and civil rights activist who dedicated his life working tirelessly for peace, social justice, and opportunity for all Americans – irrespective of color or creed,” the Google Doodle notes.
King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, has explained how she sees the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday. “On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child,” she wrote in an essay published on the King Center’s website.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Federal Holiday Dates to the Ronald Reagan Era
It was President Ronald Reagan who officially made Martin Luther King Jr. day a national holiday. “On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King,” reports Google. The day morphed into a day of service in honor of King’s life work.
“It was federally observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, and over 30 years later, the day is traditionally celebrated as a day of service, with people volunteering time and talent to help others, thus paying homage to Dr. King’s legacy,” Google notes. The day honors King’s birthday; he was born on January 15. However, it’s not always held on exactly that day as it falls on the third Monday of every January.
“This is not a black holiday; it is a people’s holiday,” Coretta Scott King said when the day was created. Time Magazine notes that the first efforts to create a national holiday fell short, although some states individually honored King with a day. “Coretta continued her fight for approval of a national holiday, testifying before Congress several more times and mobilizing governors, mayors and city council members across the nation to make the passage of a King-holiday bill part of their agenda,” Time reports. Eventually, her efforts succeeded.
2. Coretta Scott King Says the Day Honors Her Husband’s ‘Revolutionary Spirit’
In the essay posted on the King Center’s website, Coretta Scott King explains what the national holiday day means to her and what she hopes people take away from it. “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America,” she wrote. “We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership.”
King’s widow added, “On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit. We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles.”
Equality. Tolerance. Intercultural cooperation. These are just some of the values that King championed, his widow wrote. “We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America,” she said.
3. Dr. King, a Baptist Minister, Was Born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. King was born in an era of segregation and racism. According to Biography.com, “Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. The King and Williams families were rooted in rural Georgia.”
His grandfather was a minister and his family was sharecroppers in the South, the site notes, adding that King’s father also became a pastor and “adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther” with his son doing the same.
“The King children grew up in a secure and loving environment. Martin Sr. was more the disciplinarian, while his wife’s gentleness easily balanced out the father’s more strict hand,” reports Biography.com, noting that King Jr. followed in his family’s religious footsteps after college. He married Coretta Scott in 1953, and they had four children together. By 1964, he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Dr. King’s Legacy of Non-Violent Resistance in the Fight for Equality Helped Shape His Legacy as One of History’s Greatest Leaders
Dr. King advocated non-violence and his approach created “genuine progress” toward more equality in the United States. “During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced,” the King Center notes in its biography of Dr. King.
“Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history,” the Center writes, adding that he was influenced by people like Mahatma Gandhi. “While others were advocating for freedom by ‘any means necessary,’ including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals,” writes the Center.
King’s “I have a dream” oration is one of the greatest and most moving speeches in world history. You can read a draft of it here. The Montgomery Bus boycott, his leadership in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama, and his involvement in the “March on Washington” are among his signature moments. King was assassinated in 1969 at a Memphis motel.
5. The Google Doodle Was Designed to Show a Young Girl ‘Enthralled’ by the Words of Dr. King
The Google Doodle contains the stirring image of a child moved by the words of Dr. King. “Today’s Doodle by guest artist Cannaday Chapman was also developed in collaboration with the Black Googlers Network (BGN), one of the largest employee resource groups at Google,” noted Google.
“The image depicts a young girl perched on her father’s shoulders, enthralled by the power and eloquence of Dr. King’s words. The scene is evocative of Dr. King’s dream for children everywhere to one day live in a better world.”
Chapman told Google: “Martin Luther King Jr.’s message is especially relevant today and will be relevant for the remainder of civilization. Dr. King is most remembered for fighting for the rights of African Americans, but he fought for the rights of all Americans. He believed in fairness and equity for everyone. As a black man, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for him and the brave people of the civil rights movement.”