Monday marks the 25th year since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed as a national holiday.
Despite the designation by the federal government in 1986, it was not until 2000 that every state observed the federal holiday. Make no mistake, not everyone came on board in a timely fashion. But in our nation’s history, there have been few things timely in regard to race.
There are chapters about race in our history books that make for uncomfortable reading. It dates back to the days of slavery into Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws. It is hard to fathom what people were forced to endure solely based on the color of their skin or where they were born. The Civil War provided freedom, but in many instances, in name only.
Through a system designed to keep people down in ‘their’ place, leaders rose. Freed slaves gained property, joined the Army as Buffalo Soldiers and sought educational and business opportunities.
There were men eager to go overseas to defend a country that treated prisoners of war better than some of its own minorities. And more leaders rose.
Men came to the forefront like Martin Luther King Jr. in the oppressive deep South. They put their lives on the line for civil rights. They held the belief that all men are created equal and should have the same right to vote without the harassment prevalent during that time period. There was an unpopular belief that schools should be shared, blacks and whites could eat sandwiches at the same drugstore counter and go to the same restroom and drink from the same water fountain.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equality left an indelible mark on American history. It was a just fight reserved for a special person. He moved the needle light years forward in racial equality. And yet, as we honor King and the civil rights movement Monday, we must not forget there is so much work left to do. We could all use a little of Martin Luther King’s selflessness and compassion for others.