Martin Luther King, Jr. and his day

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kristina Garuti
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Equal Opportunity Office
Martin Luther King, Jr., born Jan. 15, 1929, was an activist and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. In his adult life, King was a Baptist minister that became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. In 1963, King led a march on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as a great orator. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his assassination on April 4, 1968, King had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King's actual birth date, January 15. It is one of four United States federal holidays to commemorate an individual person. When first introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill seeking to create this day originally fell short of the required number of votes needed to pass. But with the efforts of The King Center which turned to support from the corporate community and the general public, along with contributions from musician Stevie Wonder with his single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980, and his hosting of the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981, six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law.

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.

At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2006.

Connecticut has a number of free activities occurring within the state. Check your local newspapers and community activity boards for events happening in your own city or town!