King is most known for the “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the March on Washington. The words "I have a dream that my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin," "I have a dream today" and "We shall overcome someday" surround Google's red, white, and blue letters of the Doodle, and King's cartoon likeness is depicted preaching.
Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929, but the holiday is observed annually on the third Monday of January. While this is the 26th Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the holiday has only been officially celebrated in all 50 states since 2000 – when South Carolina became the last state to make it a paid holiday and Utah finally changed its name from Human Rights Day.
Around the country, you can expect the usual parades and ceremonies. And the day, despite its good intentions, always dredges up some sort of controversy or somebody exploiting or commercializing the holiday – such as Sears, which has been advertising an “MLK Sales Event” – a practice brilliantly lampooned last year by Stephen Colbert.
"The farther we get away from his life and what he did, the less people seem to recall it," Portsmouth attorney Charles Griffin told Seacoast Online. "The other thing is, look, a lot has happened with equality. Our president is African-American, and there are blacks on the Supreme Court and in Cabinet positions. Part of the sentiment is that dream has been achieved, so let's go shopping."
As Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm points out, King's image has been sanitized, including, for example, the fact that King backed labor unions and voting rights and opposed America’s bloody wars: “The icon of the national holiday, the Disneyfied hero celebrated by school kids, a replica of the original made into someone palatable to business and civic leaders across the political spectrum, hardly resembles the righteous rabble-rouser who inflicted so much discomfort on the American establishment.”
Did you know that no other modern American figure’s name has been attached to as many civic places as King, including 893 streets that bear his name? However, as Derek Alderman, a professor of geography at the University of East Carolina, pointed out to Grimm, those streets “are often confined to the black ZIP codes, ‘just reaffirming segregation.’ He noted, ‘The man who fought against segregation is remembered on a very segregated street.’”
King was assassinated April 4, 1968. The King Center website offers a full bio of King and searchable archive of King’s documents, including speeches and sermons.
Past Martin Luther King Jr. Day Google LogosHere’s a look back at how Google has commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day in past years. Google has also added some notes on the two most recent Doodles on their newly revamped Google Doodles website.
Said a Doodler: “Dr. Martin Luther King, one of the most significant figures for equal rights in America, envisioned a day where children will ‘not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ This famous line from his address at the Lincoln Memorial was the spark that inspired this year's celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.”
Said a Doodler: “My first year celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I wanted to depict the steadfastness of his approach to civil rights. Marching arm-in-arm with fellow Americans, Dr. King's acts of civil disobedience made him a symbol for equality."
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