It has been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. A bill was brought up by Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers shortly after King’s death according to USA Today. It was rejected many times but in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to make it happen. The holiday took effect in 1986.

Although people are celebrating the holiday every year, there are some that just do not care or they forget about it. We get distracted by life so much, that we do not consider what happened in King’s life. People learned about MLK from what he did or his “I have a Dream” speech through school or family. However, with easier access to the internet, we begin to learn more about him.

MLK at the March on Washington.
Source: Creative Commons

Some people celebrate MLK Day because they get off of school or work, but it should be more than that. If people really want to understand more about King, they need to look at him as more than just a Civil Rights leader who pushes for equality for African Americans, but a person who used to be unpopular by many back in his time.

Today, we admired him for all he did, but it was not the same back in the 1960s. Most Americans did not support King and the Civil Rights Movement. Jeanne Theoharis wrote in her article on “Time” that 72 percent of Americans did not favor King and 23 percent did not favor the March on Washington before it happened.

It was because he was once considered dangerous and controversial. Back then, discrimination was rooted in many families and children who grew up to hate those who look different, so the Civil Rights Movement was hated by many. King was even criticized by people for protesting for human rights that even some African Americans think that it was dangerous of him to do that. He even went to prison many times for disobedience which one time, he wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” This did not stop him from fighting to reach his goals.

MLK’s mugshot when in Birmingham jail.
Source: Creative Commons

But King did not only stand for equal rights and nonviolent protest but also for the poor. He criticized capitalism that “gives luxuries to the classes and takes necessities from the masses,” according to “Time.”

He was strongly against poverty and wanted to help the poor of all races and background. Before his assassination, he and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference planned on gathering the poor for a petition of the Poor People’s Campaign against economic inequality, according to the Poor People Campaign website.

King also opposed the Vietnam War which was very controversial back then. There were a lot of anti-war protests as people questioned the government and worried about the lives being killed in the war.

When King gave a speech criticizing America’s decisions on funding the war, it caused the nation to hate him.

With all the hate and criticism surrounding him, he was a hero. A hero who wants to make sure that African Americans should be treated equally and have equal access to education, public places and jobs. However, his dream of people judging others by their character and not by color has not been accomplished yet.

It is obviously still going on today as we see police brutality against African Americans. Movements such as Black Lives Matter are going around to protest today’s racial violence. After almost 50 years, we still see some discrimination happening.

This is why MLK Day and Black History Month is important because they teach us of the injustice that many African Americans have faced, and we certainly still need them to not make that same mistake. We forget some history and because of that, history repeats itself.