Martin Luther King Jr. Day in United States

Martin Luther King Jr Day

Is the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a Federal Holiday in the US?

Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is one of the eleven federal holidays celebrated in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. But the date was moved to the third Monday of January, following the guidelines of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, making it one of the five holidays celebrated on Monday.

The day honors Dr. King, a Baptist clergyman and well-known American civil rights movement figure, and his life and accomplishments. The day is meant to "prompt reflection on the values of racial equality and peaceful social change preached by Dr. King." The holiday is often marked with marches, rallies, and speeches by politicians and figures from the civil rights movement.

Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Quick Facts

  • Time/Date: Third Monday of January every year
  • Category: Federal
  • Where It's Marked: USA
  • Why It's Marked: This day celebrates Dr. King's life and legacy and inspires all Americans to volunteer in their communities.
  • Also called: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MLK Day, King Day, and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Labor unions advocated the idea of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After King passed away, US Representative John Conyers and US Senator Edward Brooke sponsored a bill in Congress that would have declared King's birthday a national holiday. 

In 1979, the US House of Representatives put the legislation up for a vote, but it fell short by five votes of the required number to pass. Two of the primary objections made by opponents were that a paid holiday for government workers would be too expensive and that a holiday in King's honor would go against long-standing custom since he never held public office. At the time, only George Washington and Christopher Columbus had holidays named in their honor.

When artist Stevie Wonder organized the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981 and released the track "Happy Birthday" to popularize the cause in 1980, the success of this tactic was solidified. The King Center soon started requesting assistance from the business world and the general public. The petition to have the measure passed by Congress garnered six million signatures, making it the biggest pro-issue petition in American history.

At first, President Reagan opposed the holiday due to financial considerations. However, on November 2, 1983, President Reagan approved a measure sponsored by Representative Katie Hall that established a federal holiday in King's memory. The House of Representatives approved the legislation with a vote of 338 to 90 and the Senate with a vote of 78 to 22. The inaugural New Year's Day celebration occurred on January 20, 1986. Due to the requirements of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it is honored on the third Monday of January rather than on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actual birthday.

How to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday?

Some communities organize parades on this day. Additionally, it has evolved into a day of volunteer citizen action since the enactment of the 1994 King Holiday and Service Act (sometimes referred to as the MLK Day of Service).

However, here are some ideas you can follow to make the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday more meaningful.

  • Educate yourself about this civil activist. You can explore his radical philosophy, read some of King's books, and read books about him written by Black authors.
  • Support organizations that make it their mission to eradicate racial injustice. Participate in a protest, raise money, and learn more about the initiatives Black Lives Matter and other groups are taking to strengthen Black communities.
  • Support businesses owned by Black people. Equality cannot exist without equity, and Black company entrepreneurs frequently face additional challenges to their success due to their color. You can empower people on a day dedicated to giving back by patronizing Black-owned businesses in your neighborhood or online.
  • Watch films about King's life. You can watch Our Friend, Martin, Ava Duvernay's Selma to learn more about his complex life.
  • Go to YouTube and watch his historical Speech "I Have A Dream." Although you may have read the speech in history books, there is nothing quite like witnessing the guy speak in front of a crowd of 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • In addition to Dr. King, mention those like John Lewis, Ida B. Wells, and Stacey Abrams, who have fought to increase voting rights.
  • Look for methods to donate to the National Civil Rights Museum or join your community's historical society.

Interesting Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

Continue reading to learn more about the life and legacy of the civil rights icon. 

  • King was originally named Michael King Jr. However, in 1934, his father, a pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, went to Germany and was influenced by Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation. As a result, King Sr. changed both his name and the name of his son, who was five years old.
  • King, who was so talented academically, skipped grades nine and twelve before entering 1944 Morehouse College, the school attended by his father and maternal grandparents.
  • In addition to two bachelor's degrees, he earned a doctorate of philosophy from Boston University.
  • He had worked for a newspaper as one of his first jobs.
  • Dr. King had a different perspective on his faith as a teenager than he would later adopt as a religious leader.
  • During his lifetime, he wrote six books. His collection of writings includes "Stride Toward Freedom," "Why We Can't Wait," and "Where Do We Go From Here," all of which trace the development of the US civil rights movements.
  • He delivered hundreds of addresses yearly and spoke at over 2,500 events.
  • "I Have a Dream" was not his first speech. King spoke during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957, six years before his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution claims that a lady approached Dr. King in 1958 in New York City during a book signing event and stabbed him with a letter opener. The attack left him with a potentially fatal wound close to his heart, but he received quick emergency medical attention and pulled through.
  • One of Dr. King's most controversial speeches later received a prestigious award. He received a posthumous Grammy for best spoken-word recording in 1970 for the speech, also known as "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam" or "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam," and recorded on vinyl.
  • He delivered speeches in nations like Ghana, India, and England.
  • He still holds the record for being the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • He was a huge fan of jazz and gospel music.
  • The King Center claims that the civil rights activist spent 29 times in jail. He was detained on fabricated charges and for civil disobedience, such as when he was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for exceeding the posted speed limit by 30 miles per hour.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Quotes

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude."

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

"If you can't fly, then run, if you can't run, then walk, if you can't walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward."

"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."


1. Why is Martin Luther King Jr. Day special?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has historical significance as it marks the first holiday honoring an African American.

2. Does the military observe MLK Day?

The military and civilian employees of the US Department of Defense uphold Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and principles through their loyal service.

3. Does just America observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day is also observed in Hiroshima, Japan. The occasion was made possible by the previous mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who hosted a banquet yearly at the mayor's office to honor King.

4. Who signed the MLK Day proclamation?

Ronald Reagan, the president.

5. What states were against MLK Day?

Arizona. Initially, Arizona voters held out on approving a ballot measure for MLK Day until 1992, two years after the NFL snubbed the state.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observances

Year Weekday Date Name Holiday Type
2022 Mon 17 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day Public
2023 Mon 16 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day Public
2024 Mon 15 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day Public
2025 Mon 20 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day Public
2026 Mon 19 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day Public

We constantly update the dates of holidays that keep changing every year. However, while we revise and change some dates to be accurate, if you find any errors, kindly inform us . That will mean a lot to us.

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