Martin Luther King Day - A Day of Service

The History of Martin Luther King Day
by Shmuel Ross and David Johnson

It took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, first introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968. After the bill became stalled, petitions endorsing the holiday containing six million names were submitted to Congress.

Conyers and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, resubmitted King holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.

Congress passed the holiday legislation in 1983, which was then signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A compromise moving the holiday from Jan. 15, King's birthday, which was considered too close to Christmas and New Year's, to the third Monday in January helped overcome opposition to the law.

Read more and find out how you can serve in your community:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Four Books to Consider
The Wall Street Journal

MLK biography on Nobel

Martin Luther King, Jr A True Historical Examination

The King Center

MLK Research and Education Institute

The "I Have a Dream" speech audio and video

Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service Volunteer Match

Corporation for National & Community Service

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