Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Designed to be a Day of Service
Each year on the third Monday of January, America honors the birth, life, and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As this is a Federal holiday, not only will schools and libraries be closed, most federal and state offices will be closed and there will be no mail deliveries on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
In 2019, a survey by Bloomberg Law showed that 45% of employers give all or most employees a paid day off for King Day. That percentage has doubled since 1990, according to the survey.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the only national holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities, according to the corporation for National & Community Service.
It is a time to remember the injustices that Dr. King fought. A time to remember his fight for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples through nonviolence.
History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Dr. King was an American clergyman and civil-rights leader. He became minister of the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954. He led the black boycott of segregated city bus lines in 1956 and gained a major victory as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to operate on a desegregated basis.
Did you Know?
- King was born on January 15th 1929. His holiday is observed on the third Monday of January. The last time MLK Day fell on his birthday was 2007 and the next time won’t be until 2029.
- King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which provided a base to pursue further civil-rights activities, in the South and later nationwide. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance resulted in his arrest on numerous occasions in the 1950s and 60s. His 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama earned him worldwide attention.
- He brought together more than 200,000 people on the March on Washington in August 1963 where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
- In 1964, at the age of 35, he was the youngest man and the third black man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
His interests widened from civil rights to include criticism of the Vietnam War and a deeper concern over poverty. His plans for a Poor People’s March to Washington in 1968 were interrupted for a trip to Memphis, Tennessee in support of striking sanitation workers. On April 4, 1968, he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Since his assassination, Mrs. Coretta Scott King has devoted her energy and attention to developing programs and building the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change as a living memorial to her husband’s life and dream. The King Center is the first institution to be built in memory of an African American leader and hosts over one million visitors a year.
Just four days after MLK Jr. was assassinated, Rep. John Conyers introduced legislation to establish the holiday. MLK Jr. Day was slowly adopted by various states, beginning with Illinois, which established a state holiday in 1973.
Did you know?
- The famous musician Stevie Wonder was a strong supporter of the movement to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. In 1981, he wrote and released one of his most popular songs ‘Happy Birthday’ to highlight the cause.
- The bill to create Martin Luther King Day was sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in October of 1983. The following month, President Reagan signed it, establishing the Third Monday of every January as Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday, beginning in 1986.
- The holiday was first observed by all 50 states on January 18th 1993.
Alternative state holidays
In Idaho, This day is known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day/Idaho Human Rights Day. In Arizona and New Hampshire, the day is known as Civil Rights Day.
Did you know?
Three facts about Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
- Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested 30 times
- Martin Luther King Jr. is one of two Americans whose birthday is celebrated as a national holiday; the other is George Washington, whose birthday is commonly celebrated as Presidents’ Day.
- The first state bill recognizing a holiday for King was signed into law in 1973 in Illinois.
- Martin Luther King Jr.: Pixaby