As he stood on the second floor balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he’d stayed to support the black sanitary public works employees who’d been on strike for higher wages and better treatment, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death. The world changed that day, April 4, 1968, as King’s death spurred race riots in cities across the nation, including Washington D.C. Despite the violence of these riots, King’s life was dedicated to nonviolent resistance and the peaceful pursuit of justice, and his activism earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was also posthumously awarded both The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and his legacy has influenced the Black Consciousness Movement as well as the Civil Rights Movement in South Africa.
Today, this one man’s abundance of human spirit continues to inspire activists to resist oppression and fight for the freedom and quality of life that all human beings deserve. So, celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday,” a song guaranteed to make you move and think. As one of the leaders in the campaign to make the birthday of MLK a national holiday, Wonder wrote this song to make the cause known. While several cities and states began observing King’s birthday as early as 1971, it did not become a U.S. federal holiday until 1986.
I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King