The United States observes Law Day annually on May 1st. This day encourages all Americans to reflect on the personal rights and liberties which are enjoyed and exercised daily.
The laws and courts uphold these same rights and freedoms daily. The observance promotes reflection on the role of law in the foundation of the country. It also recognizes its importance for society. Law Day asks Americans to focus on every American’s rights as laid out in the fundamental documents of American democracy: the Declaration of Independence and the federal Constitution.
When is Bill of Rights Day?
HOW TO OBSERVE #LawDay
The American Bar Association organizes events for students and local citizens. Participate in essay writing contests, webinars, theater productions, Teen Court programs, scholarship fundraisers, and award presentations, to name a few. While you are celebrating the day, explore upcoming bills and the current year’s theme. Other ways to participate include:
- Challenge yourself to learn more about how a specific law applies to you.
- Expand your awareness of the justice system and how it works.
- Learn how laws are developed.
- Ask an attorney to speak to your classroom.
- Take students to the debate floor of your state legislature.
When you celebrate, use #LawDay to share on social media.
LAW DAY HISTORY
The American Bar Association presented the idea for Law Day in 1957. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 proclaimed the day to be observed on May 1st annually. Congress later passed Joint Resolution 87-20 on April 7, 1961.
Each year, the American Bar Association selects a theme for the celebration. Past Themes include:
- Generations of Justice – 1990
- E Pluribus Unum – 1995
- Celebrate Our Freedom: Democracy and Diversity – 2000
- The American Jury: We the People in Action – 2005
- Law Day in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges – 2010
- Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom – 2018
- Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment – 2020
May 1st Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) History
The United Kingdom issued the world’s first adhesive postage stamp called the Penny Black. Sir Rowland Hill first proposed the idea back in 1837 as part of postal reform. At the time, the receiver bore the cost of postage upon delivery, and it could be costly depending on weight and the distance traveled. Fraud was also rampant. The Penny Black cost only a penny (as the name suggests) and the sender paid for the postage at the time of sending. The Penny Black featured a profile image of Queen Victoria. Soon, the idea of pre-paid postage spread around the world and across the pond to the United States.
Catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker makes his major league baseball debut with Toledo of the Association League against Louisville. He is one of the first African Americans to play in the major leagues and when he leaves the league several months later, is the last until Jackie Robinson signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Orson Welles’ award-winning film Citizen Kane premieres in New York City. Welles’ also starred alongside Joseph Cotton and Dorothy Comingore in a story that follows the rise and fall of publishing magnate.
Nearly 102 years after the transcontinental railroad was completed, Amtrak begins operation. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation is federally supported and provides intercity passenger train service in the United States.
May 1st Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) Birthday
Calamity Jane – 1852
Orphaned at a young age, Martha Jane Cannary grew up to be known as the legendary sharpshooter, Calamity Jane. She earned a notorious reputation in the Wild West of Deadwood, South Dakota, for her drunkenness, lawlessness, and relationships with wanted men, including Wild Bill Hickok. However, most of the stories surrounding her life are unverifiable. Later in her life, she would perform in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1893 and in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
Anna Jarvis – 1864
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day in the United States, created the day to honor and fulfill her own mother’s dream. As a result, the day celebrates mothers all over the country and the world.
Scott Carpenter – 1925
A pioneer in space exploration and a member of the Mercury 7 astronauts, Scott Carpenter, became the second American to orbit the Earth. Carpenter left the surface of land behind by being both an astronaut and aquanaut.
Max Robinson – 1939
In 1978, Max Robinson became the first African American broadcast network news anchor when he joined the ABC World News Tonight team.
Judy Collins – 1939
The American singer-songwriter achieved critical success in the 1960s and 70s with hits such as “Both Sides of Now” and “Send in the Clowns.”