Politics Americans see Martin Luther King Jr as a hero now, but that wasn't the case during his lifetime
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President Joe Biden is traveling to Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver a major speech on voting rights, looking to turn up the heat on reluctant senators as Democrats face pressure to pass two pieces of pending legislation opposed by nearly all Republicans on Capitol Hill. © DREW ANGERER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images US President Joe Biden speaks at the US Capitol on January 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC. - Thousands of supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in a bid to prevent the certification of Biden's election victory.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader and an American hero. Almost every American adult (95%) believes he was an important figure in American history in.
But it wasn't always that way. The fact that King is now beloved and has a national holiday commemorating his birthday wasn't something that obviously was going to happen during his lifetime.
This shows us that often the fight for civil rights is unpopular at the time, and it only becomes popular retrospectively.
King family: ‘Difficult decision’ to attend Biden’s voting rights speech
“It’s been a long year of a lot of things not being done, and we stand and we share that frustration,” Arndrea Waters King said.“We certainly understand the frustration of our local partners here in Georgia,” Arndrea Waters King told MSNBC in an interview. “It’s been a long year of a lot of things not being done, and we stand and we share that frustration.
During the 1960s, King was a very divisive figure. The lastto ask about his popularity during his lifetime, taken in 1966, found his unfavorable rating was 63%. This included 39% of Americans who gave him a -5 rating on a scale, with -5 being least favorable and +5 being most favorable.
King's highly negative ratinghis attention from southern de jure segregation toward de facto segregation in northern cities.
But even before then, King was far from a universally liked person. In the middle of 1964, when Congress was in the midst of passing many landmark civil rights laws, King's favorable rating was just 44%. His unfavorable rating was basically equal at 38%.
When Americans were asked which three Americans they had the least respect for in a 1964 Gallup poll, King came in second at 42%. This was barely less than the 47% registered by George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama. Only 17% mentioned King's name, when asked which three Americans they had the most respect for.
King family to rally in Arizona for voting bills for MLK Day
PHOENIX (AP) — As the nation prepares to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some members of his family are spending it in conservative-leaning Arizona to mobilize support for languishing federal voting rights legislation. Martin Luther King III; his wife, Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter Yolanda Renee King, 13, will take part Saturday in an on-the-ground campaign for voting rights in Phoenix. They will march with local activists and supporters from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church, and speak about the importance of “no celebration without legislation.
Perhaps even more revealing is that a lot of White Americans thought King was doing more harm than good for the fight for civil rights. In a 1966 Harris Poll, 50% of White Americans indicated that he was hurting the Civil Rights effort. A mere 36% said he was helping. King's favorable rating among them was 27% in 1966.
Black Americans saw things very differently. The vast majority in 1963 thought his work for equal rights was moving at the right speed (71%) or not fast enough (21%) compared to 8% who believed it was happening too fast. In 1966, 84% of Black adults had a favorable view of him, while 4% had an unfavorable view.
Even in the immediate aftermath of his death, many Americans had a negative view of King. Nearly a third (31%) say he brought his 1968 assassination upon himself. Less than a majority (43%) said they were sad (38%) or angry (5%).
By the mid-1970s, views toward King became more positive. The vast majority (67%) of Americans believed the protest marches he led helped to speed up civil rights legislation.
Atlanta church service will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s mayor, Georgia’s governor and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock are scheduled to attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. service at King’s old congregation, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The service at Ebenezer and other events surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorate what would have been King’s 93rd birthday. In a news release, the King Center in Atlanta said the 10 a.m. Monday service will be broadcast live on Atlanta’s Fox TV affiliate and on Facebook, YouTube and thekingcenter.org.The Rev. Natosha Reid Rice and Pastor Sam Collier will preside over the service. This year's keynote speaker is the Rev.
That said, it was far from a sure thing that King would be celebrated with a national holiday. Early in the year () that legislation passed Congress and was signed by the president (Reagan), opinion was split down the middle.
A within the margin of error plurality (48%) indicated that they didn't want it to be, as a nearly equal 47% said it should in an ABC News/Washington Post poll. It was only by the end of the year when most Americans (59%) favored the national holiday in a Harris poll.
Some states, however, lagged behind. South Carolina was the last state to make Martin Luther King Day a non-optional state holiday, and that.
Arizona was another state that took a long time to make Martin Luther King's birthday a state holiday. Thethe state legislature in 1986, and two ballot propositions failed in 1990.
The NFL decided to move the 1993 Super Bowl away from the state, as a result.
When all Americans were asked about whether they favored or opposed this move, just 25% favored it. The vast majority (63%) said they were opposed to moving the Super Bowl.
The move by the NFL had the intended effect. Voters in Arizona passed a law in 1992 to make King's birthday a state holiday. The NFL put the 1996 Super Bowl in the state.
As the 20th century turned to the 21st, King's legacy was cemented in the American mind. A near unanimous majority (89%) indicated he was a person they admired in 1999.
In 2011, 94% of Americans had a favorable view of him in Gallup polling. This included an 89% favorable rating among those ages 65 and older. The vast majority of whom were born in 1927 or later. Among that same group in 1966, King's favorable rating was 41%.
In other words, King's now uniform popularity isn't only because older generations died out. People's minds changed. King became a lot more popular among many people who didn't like him when he was alive.
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