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All USA News Hub: What to Read, Watch, and Listen to Today

In an era when many of the civil-rights policies enacted in the 1960s face serious threats, I expect there will be a renewed urgency and vigor to the annual goings-on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Below are some suggestions for how to use your downtime today.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

Today marks the 39th year that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been celebrated nationally. King Day is one of those things that feels like it’s been around everywhere forever, but the federal holiday has only been recognized in every state since 2000—and, regrettably, two of those states, Alabama and Mississippi, still choose to celebrate the Confederate general Robert E. Lee alongside King, ostensibly because their birthdays are close to each other. (So far, my requests that they also consider celebrating fellow noted Capricorns Sade Adu and Ray J have gone unanswered.)

The changing meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day over the years is a useful barometer for the ongoing discourse on race in America. The King Day of my childhood had already been Easy-Baked into a holiday of half-hearted days of service and sappy television specials; my teachers would roll out the big TV to play Roots or Eyes on the Prize on LaserDisc. But the idea of a federal holiday to celebrate King was once fiercely contested. The late Senator John McCain voted against the original federal bill in 1983, and in 1987, the incoming governor in his home state of Arizona, Republican Evan Mecham, killed a plan to begin observing the holiday. It took five more years—and the NFL moving a Super Bowl away from the state in protest—before a referendum finally approved the measure. For years, millions of Americans were so wary of putting King on a pedestal hitherto reserved for George Washington and Christopher Columbus that they actively opposed a paid Monday off. That’s serious commitment.

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