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MLK Day has a turbulent history from political battles to boycotts

Martin Luther King Jr. is a national civil rights hero, but the road to establishing MLK Day wasn't easy.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday when we can all honor the life and legacy of the civil rights hero, but the road to him getting this day has been bumpy. 

Let’s connect the dots.

Introduced in 1968. Passed in 1983.

Congress first talked about creating a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 1968, the year he was assassinated. 

Bills were introduced for more than a decade but never gained traction. 

Finally, in 1983 it made it to the floor only to be filibustered by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. The debate got pretty ugly, but the bill was finally passed and signed by President Ronald Reagan.

However, it wasn't the end of the fight.

NFL Arizona Boycott

Even though Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a federal holiday, it took several years for every state to get on board. 

Arizona is a famous example. 

According to reports, in 1990 the NFL told the state if they wanted to host the 1993 Super Bowl, they had to recognize Martin Luther King junior day as a holiday. 

An initial ballot measure failed and the NFL boycotted the state. That ballot measure finally passed in 1992.

Combing Confederate holiday with MLK Day

Alabama and Mississippi technically celebrated the civil rights leader’s holiday, but they have combined it with a celebration of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

And while South Carolina does have a Martin Luther King holiday, its observance is optional. 

State workers can choose between that day and three separate confederate holidays to take off.