Celebrated on the third Monday of January (a time close to King's real birthday on the 15th), MLK day is a great holiday to bum around by the TV, or get hammered with your friends.
But it also celebrates Martin Luther King Jr., a truly mantastic historical figure who promoted nonviolence and acceptance over hatred and prejudice, pushing the civil rights movement into the public consciousness.
In honor of Dr. King, we've collected 10 of the manliest moments in black history, starting with the man himself.
1. Martin Luther King busted, uses time to write "Letter From Birmingham Jail" (April 16, 1963)
As the single-most revered African-American figure, MLK has had almost too many mantastic moments to choose from. One that deserves much respect is the incident in which he was arrested for his part in a nonviolent protest in Birmingham, Ala. Rather than fashion a shiv or barter for cigarettes while in the clink, King wrote an open letter that pretty much summed up his crusade for justice.
In it, he stated that "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." Standing up to The Man never sounded so good.
2. Jack Johnson wins "The Fight of the Century" (July 4, 1910)
After a string of Caucasian fighters were mistakenly deemed the next "Great White Hope" (i.e., white people wanted a white champ), former heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to fight the reigning heavyweight title holder, Jack Johnson
. Johnson, a charismatic and flamboyant black man, was despised by much of the white establishment for not "knowing his place." Jeffries said openly before the matchup, "I am going into his fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro." That did not get proved. Johnson knocked down his racist opponent twice before Jeffries' corner threw in the towel in the 15th round.
3. Jesse Owens, non-Aryan, dominates the Nazi Olympics (August 3-9, 1936)
The Third Reich wanted to use the 1936 Berlin Olympics to showcase Nazi Germany and promote their spurious ideologies, including Aryan racial superiority. Track and field phenom Jesse Owens wasn't down with that story line and proceeded to win four gold medals in six days
. By the time he left Berlin, Owens' athletic superiority was known the world over, making Hitler look like a chump.
4. Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (July 27, 2004)
When our current president stepped to the podium at the DNC in 2004, he was a little-known candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois. Using the rhetorical magic that propelled his ascent to the White House, Obama ignited the crowd with the inspiring story of his background and his belief in the American Dream
. As a counterpoint, the Democrats' nominee that year was John Kerry, a man whose speechmaking had the same effect as a large dose of Benadryl.
5. Captain Charles B. Hall takes out Luftwaffe over Anzio (January 27 and 28, 1944)
The 99th Fighter Squadron (aka The Tuskegee Airmen)
have been the subject of numerous books and movies honoring their service. Captain Charles B. Hall was one of the finest pilots of the group, and he became the first black man in American history to shoot down an enemy aircraft. His greatest moment of machismo came in late January 1944, when Luftwaffe bombers raided Anzio, Italy. To protect and support the Allied ground offensive, Hall and company went to work taking out German planes. Hall personally shot down two planes as part of an eight-squadron effort that claimed 32 German aircraft. He remains our favorite son of Brazil, Ind., which is no small achievement, considering the town also produced popcorn mogul Orville Redenbacher.
6. James Brown helps keep the peace in Boston (April 5, 1968)
The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, numerous U.S. cities were rocked by violent protests and rioting. Yet in Boston, a city not known for racial harmony, there was a relative calm. Many credit the Godfather of Soul, James Brown
, for helping to keep this peace. During his rousing concert at the Boston Garden, which aired on the local PBS station, Brown encouraged Bostonians to remember what Dr. King stood for. Meanwhile, he cranked out his patented jams like never before, including "Cold Sweat" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It's was more precisely JB's world that night.
7. Crispus Attucks stands up to British forces, becomes martyr of the American Revolution (March 5, 1770)
Little is known about Crispus Attucks' background, and most of what is known is disputed by historians. What goes undisputed is his participation in the civil unrest that led to the Boston Massacre and his subsequent killing by British troops, making him the most famous martyr of the American Revolution
. Paul Revere's renowned carving of Attucks being shot later became an important symbol for abolitionists during the Civil War. As a focal point of inspiration for two of the most important struggles in U.S. history, any historian has got to admit Attucks was in the right place at the right time for a dramatic departure.
8. Wesley Autrey becomes the "Subway Samaritan" (January 2, 2007)
Autrey became a national hero through
an extraordinary act of selflessness, bravery and a little bit of crazy. Standing in a Harlem subway station with his two daughters, Autrey noticed a young man convulsing and falling onto the subway tracks. With a train approaching, Autrey sprung into action, leaping down onto the tracks and covering up the man as the breaking train rolled above them, close enough to scuff Autrey's hat. He would later make appearances on TV and at the 2007 State of the Union address, with all who met him expressing awe at his badassery.
9. Miles Davis releases "Kind of Blue" (August 17, 1959)
Jazz is the quintessential American art form, pioneered by names like Armstrong, Ellington, Parker and the man who epitomizes what makes the genre forever cool -- Miles Davis.
Many critics point to the 1959 album "Kind of Blue" as the zenith of Davis's coolness and perhaps the height of jazz. "Kind of Blue" is not only the best-selling jazz album of all time, having been certified quadruple platinum last October, but the modal-jazz masterpiece is also widely cited as one of the most influential albums ever made. And, let's not forget, it's an always-reliable soundtrack if you're trying to get your lady in the mood.
10. Otis Boykin invents resistors that enable computers, TV, and pacemakers (June 16, 1959)
, a genius in the field of electrical mechanics, got his first patent in June 1959 for the wire precision resistor. This allowed the Texas-born inventor to secure research funding to create his own labs as well as secure high-level positions with other firms, which eventually led to 11 more patents before his death in 1982. Among the products we use impacted by Boykin's work include computers, radios, television sets and pacemakers -- all of which were also made more affordable thanks to Boykin's resistors. Considering the importance these advancements have in many men's lives -- especially those who are sports fans with heart trouble -- dudes owe Boykin big time.
Let us know more mantastic moments in black history in the comments.