Martin Luther King Day, observed since 1986 on the third Monday in January in most states, commemorates the birth (January 15, 1929) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King, a Baptist minister, spent his entire career working for civil rights for his fellow African-Americans, stressing at all times the importance of non-violent effort. After taking an active role in the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott, he became one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As one of the organizers of 1963’s March on Washington for civil rights, he gave the keynote speech, famously intoning, again, and again, the words “I have a dream.” The speech, often rebroadcast and referenced, takes a place among the great speeches of American history, along the line of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Beset by the constant threat of violence throughout his active career, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Dr. King is held in such high regard in the United States that many streets, parks, schools and municipal buildings have been named after him, especially (but not exclusively) in areas with prominent African-American populations.
For African-Americans and those Americans who remember the man’s mission, Martin Luther King Day is an important occasion to commemorate the man, his life, and his ideals. For others, it is little more than the Monday off that creates the year’s first “three day weekend.”
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