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On Monday, January 16, people gathered across the nation to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. Columbus Alive featured research by Derek Alderman, head of the Department of Geography, in examining the road it took to make this day a federal holiday.

With such longstanding traditions, one might easily forget the hard-won fight to cement Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. As outlined by the King Center, the first legislation for MLK Day was introduced in 1968, but not signed into law until 1983. And it wasn’t until 1999 that all 50 states agreed to enact the holiday.

Similarly, with nearly 900 US streets named for King as of 2014—according to research by Alderman—one might not realize the complex process of establishing those geographical markers. In the case of Columbus, naming Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which runs from East Spring Street and Hamilton Avenue to Mt. Vernon and St. Clair avenues, brought up issues of race, money and community preservation.