Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday. A petition only needs 150 signatures in order to be searchable within the White House database. To cross the second threshold and require a response, a petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days. Stevie Wonder helped to achieve this feat by releasing his iconic single ‘Happy Birthday,’ raising awareness of the fact that there should be a day commemorating Dr. King’s life and questioning why people in power would be opposed to celebrating someone fighting for peace and justice.
250,000 March on Washington
During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The demonstration was attended by more than 250,000 people. Though many people are familiar with the famous speech, very few know that the iconic “I have a dream” portion was entirely improvised. If you watch the video of King giving the speech, you’ll notice for the first 2–3 minutes, he’s reading the speech prepared for him. But at some point, King pauses. Within this pause, the gospel singer and King’s good friend Mahalia Jackson yells out, “Tell’em about the dream!” At this moment, Reverend King took his crowd to church, as he preached to a diverse crowd of supporters his dream for a better and non-violent future.
25,000 March from Selma
The Selma March, also referred to as the Selma to Montgomery March, was a political march from Selma, Alabama to the state’s capital, Montgomery, occurring from March 21 to 25 in 1965. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the march was the culminating event of several emotional weeks during which demonstrators twice attempted to march but were stopped, once violently, by local police. 25,000 people participated in the roughly 50-mile march. These events became a landmark in the American civil rights movements and directly led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.