Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

The establishment of a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King grew out of the numerous localized efforts to honor King in the aftermath of his assassination. During the months following King’s death on April 4, 1968, many communities reacted by naming streets, schools, and other public landmarks after the slain leader. In Chicago, the major avenue on the city’s south side became Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. At colleges and universities throughout the nation, campus buildings and new programs were named in King’s honor.

Some Quick Facts about the Holiday

• Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, observed on the third Monday of every January (King was born on January 15, 1929).
• The holiday honors famed 1950s and 1960s African American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
• It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 3, 1983.
• The first national celebration of the holiday was held on January 20, 1986.
• Illinois was the first state to declare Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday, in 1973.
• New Hampshire was the last state to officially observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, doing so for the first time in 1999.
• Federal Martin Luther Jr. King Day observation was strongly opposed by North Carolina Senators Jesse Helms and John P. East, based on FBI reports of King’s association with communists and adulterous activities.

Excerpted from American Holidays and National Days, edited by Len Travers.


Additional Resources

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Encyclopedia
By Clayborne Carson, Tenisha Armstrong, Susan Carson, Erin Cook, Susan Englander
Greenwood, 2008

Based upon the papers of Martin Luther King Jr., this encyclopedia provides fresh and revealing insights into Dr. King's life, work, family, associates, and opponents.

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