It would take singer songwriter, Stevie Wonder 15 years and countless protests, marches, and free concerts before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday would become a national holiday. In the course of this pursuit Wonder would be assisted by U.S. labor unions and countless citizens who would put their names to a petition of more than 5 million people.
In 1968, immediately following King’s funeral, Stevie Wonder learned of a bill that had been introduced to Congress by a young Congressman, John Conyers. Stevie became interested and he joined forces with Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King and numerous other entertainers to honor King and his work.
Dr. King had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while there to lead a strike by city sanitary workers. Labor unions across the country identified with King and in 1969 workers at General Motors refused to work on his birthday. Gradually workers began to strike and refuse to work. Meanwhile, our Congress, led by the US senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, refused to pass the bill and conducted 15 years of filibustering and vicious attacks that allowed the bill to languish. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan grudgingly signed the bill to make MLK’s birthday a national holiday, but it wouldn’t get national recognition until January, 1986. South Carolina was the last state to make it an official holiday. Dr. King’s supporters never got tired of pursuing this distinction for a great “drum major” for civil rights.
“Happy Birthday” is a song Stevie Wonder wrote as a tribute to Martin Luther King’s life and in celebration of his national day.
For an in-depth article detailing Stevie Wonder’s contribution read the article from website, Medium: https://medium.com/cuepoint/how-stevie-wonder-helped-create-martin-luther-king-day-807451a78664