This year we will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, January 16. It's something we do each year as part of a national holiday tied to his birthday, which is January 15.
Martin Luther King Jr., also known as Dr. King, is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message of equality, justice, and love resonates today as much as it did during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. His leadership was instrumental in ending segregation of African Americans in the South as well as other parts of the world. When Dr. King lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was known for their nonviolent tactics, these tactics eventually led Dr. King to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) but it was not officially observed until 1986. Today, MLK Day is a federal holiday, which means that schools and government offices are closed in observance, and many businesses are closed as well. It is an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the progress that has been made towards civil rights and to render their commitment to working towards a more just and equal society. In keeping with the spirit of Dr. King's legacy of service and social justice, some people choose to participate in community service projects or volunteering their time to help others. Other events like parades, concerts, and educational programs will take place across the country to honor Dr. Kings’ legacy.
In total, MLK Day promotes an opportunity to reflect on the significance of Dr. King's work and to consider how you can make a positive impact in your own community. Through acts of service, volunteering, or simply by being an advocate for social justice, we can all play a role in bridging the gap for a more equitable and compassionate society.
10 "Did you Know" about Martin Luther King Jr:
- King received his doctorate in Systematic Theology
- His 'I Have a Dream' Speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial
- King was imprisoned nearly 30 times
- He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death
- King's last public speech foretold his death
- Members of King's family did not believe James Earl Ray acted alone
- King's mother was also slain by a bullet
- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Cesar Chavez are the Only Other Americans to have had their birthdays observed as a National Holiday
"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." - Martin Luther King Jr.