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:
MLK biography on Nobel Prize.org
The King Center
MLK Research and Education Institute
The "I Have a Dream" speech audio and video
Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement
The Seattle Times
"Lost" MLK speech from 1967 at Glenville High School in Ohio
Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service
Corporation for National & Community Service