Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplishments to racial justice and the eradication of violent discrimination against African-Americans throughout the 1950s and 1960s are celebrated on his birthday.
The creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and the 1963 March on Washington cemented Dr. King’s position as one of the most outspoken and well-known desegregationist leaders of the Civil Rights period.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, in which he called for an end to racism, is widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history.
Dr. King was one of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1964, when he received the award. In Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39, he was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel four years later.
Within a week after Dr. King’s death, there were requests for a holiday to be established in his honour. Rep. John Conyers, who passed away in 2019 after becoming one of the longest-serving members of Congress, fought for legislation four days after King’s killing to make his birthday a federal holiday.
It would take nearly a decade for the House of Representatives to vote on the statutory holiday. In the 1970s, a number of cities and governments adopted his birthday as an official holiday.
The bill was eventually signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and the first officially recognised MLK Day was observed in 1986. By the year 2000, all fifty states had proclaimed it a state government holiday.
The nation celebrates the birthday of the late Baptist minister on the third Monday of the first month of each year. Dr. King’s legacy is commemorated in communities across the nation with educational activities, speeches, marches, volunteer drives, and cultural tributes. Congress recognised the holiday as a day of service in 1994, referring to it as a “day on, not a day off.”
This year, the 28th officially recognised MLK Day will be honoured on January 16, giving federal employees the day off and government offices the day off as well.
New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Inauguration Day, George Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day are all official holidays.