History of MLK day


Tumi Su

Art of Martin Luther King Jr, along with an American flag and the words “I have a dream…”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday celebrated in the U.S every 3rd Monday of January. Most students and employees look forward to King Day for the day off from school or work, but this holiday has a powerful message. 


Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential American civil rights leader. He is most commonly known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, yet he organized and performed many speeches, marches, protests, and boycotts. He is also known for having a massive influence on the citizens of America by promoting nonviolence, public service, and equality. 


This holiday wasn’t easy to make official. John Conyers was the first to push for a holiday honoring King just 4 days after his death, but got rejected. “Conyers would persist year after year, Congress after Congress, in introducing the same bill again and again, gathering co-sponsors along the way, until his persistence finally paid off,” writes historian Don Wolfensberger. After years of John’s attempts, the CBC finally gathered 6 million signatures in support of making a federal holiday for King. Stevie Wonder had also written a song “Happy Birthday” dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., which created a new wave of support. In 1983, civil rights movement veterans gathered in Washington to honor the 20th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech. After all the persistence and support, the bill was passed with Ronald Reagan signing to make it official in that same year. The holiday was first celebrated in 1986.


We celebrate MLK Day to honor and recognize Martin Luther King Jr., his achievements, and his belief of nonviolence and equality. It’s also a reminder of how lucky we are to have the rights we have today.