History of the Holiday

The Act creating the holiday was passed after more than sixteen years of effort by countless friends and supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Support for the legislation came from all walks of life — from members of Congress, the White House, business and labor, from civil rights and religious groups — and, most important, from those individuals who have worked continuously to make his dream a reality.

(March on Washington - August 28, 1963)   ____________________________________________

Congress set aside the third Monday of January as the official Federal Holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr's actual birthday is January 15th.  According to the Act, "the holiday should serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission has adopted "Living The Dream" as the official theme for celebrating this country's newest national holiday.  The theme expresses the message and inspiration Dr. King generated among Americans in his dream and what that dream awakened in America.

  • January 18, 1986 – Proclamation 5431 by President Ronald Reagan
  • May 17, 1989 - President George W. Bush signs the Martin Luther King Day Proclamation, Freedom Hall Auditorium, Atlanta Georgia

George H. W. Bush signing the Martin Luther King Day Proclamation

History of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)

Listen to Hush Hush somebody's calling my nameListen to "Lift EVERY Voice and Sing"

Listen to Hush Hush somebody's calling my nameLearn about the history of the Negro National Anthem “Lift EVERY Voice and Sing”.

M. L. King Jr. Holiday — “University of Kentucky’s Historical Synopsis”  (pdf file)