Martin Luther King Jr Day honors the American clergyman’s birthdate, activist, Civil Rights Movement leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968). Dr. King is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience.
King’s legendary “I have a dream” speech delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, had a message that is still relevant today. In the last year of his life, King’s speeches and writings called for people, including the black community, to embrace and appreciate their heritage and culture. The civil rights leader worked for and loved America. Dr. King was a transformational leader who inspired a movement to change the nation. This special day allows everyone to reflect on what King stood for and taught us over 60 years ago.
As the leader of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. traversed the country in his quest for freedom. His involvement in the movement began during the bus boycotts of 1955 and was ended by an assassin’s bullet while standing on the balcony of his hotel in 1968. He hoped that America and the world could become a colorblind society where race would not impact a person’s civil rights. He is considered one of the great orators of modern times.
Legislation making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday was passed in 1983 and the first nationwide observance took place in 1986. Legislation for the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1968 but initially received enough opposition to block its passage, though states and cities began honoring King’s birthday as early as 1970.
Interesting Facts about Martin Luther King, Jr.
- King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday.
- At the Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind, Martin sang with his church choir.
- There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King, Jr.
- One of his main influences was Mohandas Gandhi, who taught people to protest in a nonviolent manner.
- He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- The name on his original birth certificate is Michael King. This was a mistake, however. He was supposed to be named after his father, who was named for Martin Luther, the Christian reformation movement leader.
- He is often referred to by his initials MLK.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you can honor this American legend’s memory by modeling love and acceptance today and every day.