The third Monday in January is an American federal holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It falls near the birthday of the civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968. King, a minister, became known for non-violently protesting the treatment of African-Americans in the United States and laws that discriminated against Blacks. Specifically, King protested segregation that separated blacks and whites in public restrooms, public pools, public schools, on buses, and at restaurants. King led many marches in the United States, especially in the South where segregation was especially practiced and enforced, and in Washington D.C. His march on Washington D.C. was perhaps his most famous one, where he gave the “I Have a Dream” speech.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, federal, state, and local offices are closed, including public schools and post offices. On the holiday many people participate in marches and vigils remembering Dr. King. Others use the day as a day of service and volunteer in their community by cleaning up garbage in a local park or serving food to the homeless. However, the holiday was controversial. Some states didn’t want to honor Dr. King and tried to rename the holiday or combine the day with another holiday.
Only two other people have a U.S. national holiday, Christopher Columbus and George Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a holiday in 1983 after pressure from civil rights activists and marches, similar to the ones King used to lead. Efforts to create a King holiday began the same year King was killed. The first state to recognize King Day as a holiday was Illinois. The last state to recognize the holiday was Arizona.