MLK Day - Introduction to MLK Day - 15/Jan/2024

MLK Day – Introduction to MLK Day – 15/Jan/2024

Introduction to MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, often simply known as MLK Day, is an American federal holiday that celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., the influential American civil rights leader. Having been commemorated every third Monday of January since 1986, the day is observed around the time of King’s birthday, January 15.

The Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a time of intense racial segregation in the South. He attained his Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University in 1955. Inspired by the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, King became a devoted advocate for civil rights, adopting non-violent protest as his main strategy for social change.

As a Baptist minister and a tireless crusader for racial equality, King played a seminal role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his untimely death by assassination on April 4, 1968. His “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history.

The Journey to a National Holiday

The notion to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday was first proposed shortly after his assassination in 1968. However, the road to acceptance was a long and contentious one. Coretta Scott King, Martin’s widow, along with numerous civil rights leaders and activists, spearheaded the campaign.

However, some members of Congress resisted the idea, citing costs associated with a new paid federal holiday. There were even disputes over what the day should be called, with some suggesting it should be named Civil Rights Day. In 1983, despite the divisive debates, President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law. It was first officially observed three years later, in 1986.

MLK Day Today

Today, MLK Day is observed across the United States with millions participating in “a day of service.” This tradition began in 1994 when Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, encouraging Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service. It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background.

On this day, countless commemorative services and educational programs take place to remember and celebrate King’s legacy. However, it’s not only a day of remembrance but also a day to continue his work towards social and racial justice. School children are taught about the Civil Rights Movement, and King’s role in it, and they often participate in related activities and lessons.


  • Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35
  • King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963, is estimated to have had an audience of around 250,000
  • His nonviolent protest tactics helped to lead to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965
  • Although the legislation for MLK Day was passed in 1983, it was not observed by all states until the year 2000
  • Image Description

    The image for this article features a sepia photograph of a smiling Martin Luther King Jr. In the background, there is a faded image of protestors holding signs, symbolizing the civil rights marches of the time. Nested to the side, there is a calendar with the third Monday of January visibly marked as ‘MLK Day.’ This composite image captures the essence of celebration and reflection that defines MLK Day.