HolidaysMartin Luther King Statue

I bet you’re wondering, how did Martin Luther King Jr Day become an American federal holiday? This article will outline how it became a national holiday in the United States of America and some ways you can show honor towards Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy.

Every year on the third Monday of January in America, the federal government closes trading for an entire day to honor the American civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr, assassinated in Memphis back on the 4th of April 1968. The actual federal holiday wasn’t recognized until 1986, almost 20 years after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

When it was introduced to Congress in 1986, it wasn’t formally known as a federal holiday or a date of commemoration due to the upward battle for all states to recognize Martin Luther King Jr’s heroism and importance.It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the entire United States of America recognized the important date and passed it as a federal holiday. martin luther king

This federal holiday’s commemoration is believed to clash in  Alabama and Mississippi with Robert E. Lee Day, which honors their confederate general. Due to this, the date was selected to be the first Monday of January every year rather than the day of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.


While the entire United States of America recognizes Martin Luther King Jr as an “icon for democracy & civil rights” today. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Martin Luther King Jr was believed to be a “controversial figure,” according to American historian and professor of humanities at the University of Washington,  Michael Honey.

Michael Honey states that “This was the first holiday around a national figure who is not a president, and who is African American. Michael Honey also extends his statement by expressing that “Many in the Congress didn’t want to recognize Martin Luther King Jr as he was an African American that was thought of as a troublemaker by a few in his time.”


Well, how did this important date end up becoming a federal holiday in the United States of America?

On the 8th of April 1968, Rep. John Conyers introduced legislation to create the federal holiday. The following year on the 15th of January 1969, annual ceremonies took place, commemorating Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.

It called for the entire nation to take part in ceremonies and once again began to support and work to gain further support for the federal holiday to be recognized.

Once time advanced into the 70s, the support for the Martin Luther King Jr federal holiday grew significantly. States like Illinois, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were the first states to recognize and be on board with the ideology of forming the federal holiday, but Congress failed to act upon this at a national level.

History in Time

Martin Luther King HistoryMichael Honey also commented on this aspect, saying that “The push and campaign to get the Martin Luther King Jr holiday immediately after he was assassinated, and people worked on it for a long period of time before it actually became a federal holiday”.

In the year 1979, the president of the United States of America, President Jimmy Carter, called upon Congress to vote in favor of the federal holiday. Unfortunately, not everyone was on board with the idea at that time, and five votes defeated the motion in the White House in November 1979.

Finally, on the 3rd of November 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill marking the third Monday of January every year as the Martin Luther King Jr federal holiday. The holiday commenced in the year 1986.

In January 1986, the first-ever federal holiday in the name of Martin Luther King Jr was taken place. This time, 17 states of America had taken part in the celebrating & commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.


To this day, everybody in the United States of America will honor Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy after his assassination in 1968. Many citizens often send an annual tribute via music and keynotes about freedom and parity at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.martin luther king jr

The other way of honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy is by touring the Martin Luther King Jr Harlem, by the art and mass incarceration exhibition featuring more than 40 artists, helping serve someone, writing a protest song, and by watching Martin Luther King Jr’s documentary.

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to help honor his legacy but some of the most popular ways.


Wrap Up

Every third Monday of January, national figure Martin Luther King Jr is commemorated. On this date, all trading is shut for 24 hours and working is paused for 24 hours.

This date is to commemorate and honor the legacy that Martin Luther King Jr left behind for the United States of America to use as a foundation to build upon a “democratic & civil rights” haven.

Every year on this date, millions of Americans honor the civil rights figure, Martin Luther King Jr, by paying different sorts of tributes to the American icon in various means.

Even with its controversy back in the 60s and 70s, this day remains a federal holiday in the modern age today. It will remain a national holiday for decades to come due to its significance.

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