The campaign to have Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday declared a national public holiday began in 1968, soon after the civil rights leader’s assassination. Following the defeat in congress of a bill to have the day officially observed, the King Centre turned to Stevie Wonder for help.
Wonder devised 1980’s insanely catchy, frequently misunderstood ‘Happy Birthday’ to inveigle a renewed campaign into the public consciousness, and the following year hosted the Rally For Peace Press Conference to inspire support for a petition in favour of the measure. This ultimately attracted six million signatures, and still remains the largest petition for a single issue in the history of the country. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983.