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  • Writer's pictureAmy Trudell

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Let's Chat About...Martin Luther King Day

Monday, January 15th, 2024 we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s Federal Holiday. To be honest, I am not very familiar with this celebration, so I had to do some research!

*Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday which is celebrated the 3rd Monday of January. He was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.

*This holiday originated by labor unions in contract negotiations.

*Democrat John Conyers from Michigan and Republican Edward Brooke from Massachusetts introduced the bill into Congress making King's birthday a National Holiday. The bill came to a vote in front of the US House of Representatives in 1979 but fell short by 5 votes. Some arguments include: a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive and King had never held public office, which goes against previous tradition.

*The only other persons in history with a holiday in their honor were George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

*The King Center turned to the public for support. In 1980 Stevie Wonder released a version of "Happy Birthday" in Martin Luther King Jr.'s honor which attracted attention. In 1981 a "Rally for Peace" conference was held, and a petition was started to pass the new law. 6 million signatures were added, which was the largest petition in favor of any issue in US History.

*Jesse Helms & John Porter East (both Republicans from North Caralina) still opposed the idea. Their argument was that King was not important enough for such honor.

*President Ronald Reagan originally opposed the holiday due to cost concerns. But, in 1983, Reagan signed a bill proposing to create the federal holiday honoring King. After going through and passing all branches of legislature, Martin Luther King Day was officially celebrated for the first time on January 20, 1986.

*Even though this was passed as a National Holiday, not all states observed it. New Hampshire was the last state to recognize MLK Day as a holiday in 2000. South Carolina was the last state to recognize it as a paid holiday for all State employees, also in the year 2000.

*Other states chose to group it with other holidays such as "Civil Rights Day" and "Robert E Lee Day".

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister, activist and political philosopher who was one of the most prominent leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. He opposed discrimination and his mission was equality for the whole human race. King was fatally shot by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968, while he was standing on his hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is considered a holiday in Minnesota. However, private businesses are not required to allow workers to take the day off or pay workers for not working. Employees that work for the State are usually paid holiday leave, but there may be exceptions to the rule.


  1. Birth: January 15, 1929 (Atlanta, Georgia)

  2. Children: Martin Luther King III, Yolonda King, Bernice King, Dexter King

  3. Wife: Caretta Scott King

  4. Parents: Martin Luther King Sr., Alberta Williams King

  5. Influenced By: Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Bayard Rustin, Henry David Thoreau

  6. Helped pass the "Civil Rights Act" of 1964 and the "Voting Rights Act" of 1965

  7. Opposed poverty, discrimination and the Vietnam War

  8. Nobel Peace Prize winner on October 14, 1964

  9. Death: April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee (39 years old)

You May Not Know:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. was named after his father, a Protestant Reformer.

  2. He entered college when he was 15 years old.

  3. He was arrested 29 times.

  4. He survived a previous assassination attempt 10 years prior to his death.

  5. After he died, the King family filed a Civil Case against the government and won.

Fun Fact: Martin Luther King Day lands on his actual birthday this year, January 15, 1929. He would have been 95 years old.

So, prior to writing this blog, a had very little knowledge on this subject. It was fun to do the research and I learned a lot. If you have more to add, maybe something I missed or got wrong, please add your input in the comments below.

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