Monday, Jan. 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
For some, the national holiday honoring the prominent civil rights activist is a time to give back and serve the community, be it through removing graffiti or picking up litter in a local park.
For others, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves about King and his life's work. And for others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.
The Fairfield Museum and History Center will be hosting events all weekend to honor King and others vital to the civil rights movement in America.
Those events include:
- The Life and Times of William Webb: An African American Civil War Soldier from Connecticut: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2 p.m. Free with admission. Recommended for adults and students in grades 4 and up. “Listen, there is no more clanging; there are no more slave chains. I’m Free! Praise the Lord I’m Free!” Meet Private William Webb of the 29th Connecticut Volunteers, who fought in the American Civil War. Hear the old song that answers what our fight was all about: an opportunity and chance at freedom. Kevin Johnson of the Connecticut State Library brings to life the story of William Webb.
- The Wednesday Music Club: Sunday, Jan. 20, 1:15 p.m. The Wednesday Music Club, in its 114th year performing and sharing music in the Greater Bridgeport Area, will share music and songs from the Civil War period.
- “Freedom Quilt” Family Workshop: Monday, Jan. 21, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Free with admission. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Drop in to create a “Freedom Quilt” collage, inspired by the themes of freedom and equality in the exhibit Free at Last of Civil Rights photographs.
- "Freedom Riders" Film Screening: Monday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m. Free with admission. "Freedom Riders" is the powerful, harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism. The documentary from award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson premiered on PBS in May, 2011 and is based on Raymond Arsenault's book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. American Experience is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
- Film & Lecture: Black Power in the City by the Sea: Monday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Suggested donation for $5. Fairfield University professor Dr. Yohuru Williams explores the history of the Black Power Movement in Southern Connecticut with a particular emphasis on Fairfield County and the intriguing band of activists and supporters who helped to shape the struggle for Black equality in this region. From the Black Panther Party, and the Puerto Rican Young Lords Party, to the surprising band of white allies who aided their causes, Professor Williams engages the fascinating history of this exciting period in American and Connecticut History. The lecture will be preceded by Connecticut filmmaker Karyl Evans’ short documentary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Connecticut.
So, tell us—What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you? What are you doing to commemorate King’s legacy?
The Holiday's History
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, now a U.S. holiday, took 15 years to create.
Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968.
The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington.
Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states like Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day.
Now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared it an official U.S. Day of Service.
TELL US: What does MLK Day mean to you? Tell us in the comments.