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History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Possibly the world's most recognized civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

He is best remembered for his speech 'I Have a Dream' that he gave as part of The March on Washington on August 28, 1963. An estimated 250,000 people, about a quarter of them white, converged on the nation's capital that day to hear from numerous civil rights organizations.

Four days following his assassination, Congressman John Conyers from Michigan introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday in honor of Dr. King. But further action was delayed, creating a voluminous response from Americans, as nearly six million petitions endorsing the holiday were directed to Congress.

Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm from New York resubmitted legislation each subsequent legislative session. In 1973, Illinois became the first state to adopt a Martin Luther King holiday. But during the early 1980s, public pressure continued to mount, especially during the civil rights marches of that time.

In 1983, Congress passed the holiday legislation, and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It was designated on the third Monday in January.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January