On the third Monday in January, people in the United States observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. It is a national holiday that honors an important leader of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Many communities celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day with picnics, festivals, parades, and marches.
Dr. King worked hard for freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples. He used nonviolent actions to help bring about change. He gave speeches and led peaceful marches in many parts of the country. He gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the historic March on Washington on August 28,1963.
Dr. King’s work in the Civil Rights movement helped bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act made segregation in public places against the law. It also made it illegal for employers to refuse to hire people because of their race, religion, national origin, or gender. That same year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. He continued his civil rights work through the 1960s. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated.
Soon after Dr. King’s death, a bill was introduced in Congress to make his birthday a national holiday. The bill did not become law for 15 years. Finally, in 1983, Congress voted to establish the holiday in King’s honor. President Ronald Reagan then signed it into law.
In October 2011, President Barack Obama joined civil rights leaders on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They gathered together to dedicate the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. The memorial features a 30-foot high statue of Dr. King and a 450-foot wall of granite engraved with quotations from Dr. King’s speeches.