It is a fact that there are fewer black conservatives than black liberals. Occasionally I find myself surrounded by people who under most circumstances would be rational thinking human beings despite the crimson hued area between their chin and shoulders. On one such occasion, such a person blurted out “I really hate how they took away George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s Birthdays and gave it to Martin Luther King”. I was of course stunned. I know that the vast majority of whites in this country can not truly relate to the discrimination and hate that was targeted against blacks before civil rights movement of the sixties but come on, this statement was completely clueless. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the hard facts to counter this man. I remember a time when we celebrated Washington’s and then Lincoln’s birthdays. Then we stopped. So I had to do some research into the situation. (I was very young at the time of these events so I had no hard dates.) I discovered that the time we started celebrating President’s Day and the time MLK’s birthday became a holiday were over a decade apart.
First off there is no such thing as President’s Day. Richard Nixon’s executive order declared some holidays to be celebrated on Mondays regardless of when they fell. This was done in ‘68. Washington’s Birthday was one of them. It is still called Washington’s Birthday according to the law books and was first celebrated in ‘71. I also discovered that no one “took” Abe’s birthday. It was never a national holiday. It had been celebrated as a state holiday in many states. Once the so called “President’s Day” was established, states stop celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday.
Martin Luther King’s Birthday was signed by Ronald Reagan in ’83, some 15 years after Washington’s Birthday was made a Monday holiday. It was first celebrated in ’86 but not celebrated in all 50 states in until ’93. So whoever they are, they sure took their sweet time about taking Abe’s day and giving it to Martin.
Just so we are clear, I have absolutely no doubts that much of what I am today I owe to men like Martin Luther King. But I have always wondered if his birthday should have been made a U.S. holiday. I felt this way even when I was a liberal democrat! I didn’t feel that way because of his accomplishments, nor did I buy into all the character assassination and talk about his womanizing and illicit affairs. I just wasn’t sure if the majority of Americans identify with his life enough to say he deserved his own holiday. It was 10 years after it became a holiday before all fifty states embraced it (remember the flak the Governor of Arizona caught because of it?) So I guess I have my answer. Anyway that’s just my take on it. Happy Washington’s Birthday!
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