Provided by Prince William County Office of Communication
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated each year on the third Monday of January, will fall on Jan. 17 this year.
The national holiday recognizes King, an African American civil rights leader who promoted non-violent activism against racial segregation and inequality in the 1950s and 1960s.
King first rose to prominence during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Ala., when African Americans refused to ride the buses in protest of racial segregation. The boycott lasted a little more than a year.
In 1957, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a non-sectarian organization based in Atlanta, that that operated primarily in the South to assist organizations seeking full equality for African Americans. The organization promoted citizen education projects, conducted leadership training programs, and held voter registration drives.
In 1963, King led the March on Washington, where more than 200,000 peaceful demonstrators showed up to protest racial discrimination and advocate for civil rights legislation pending in the U.S. Congress.
In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, 1968. King was in Memphis to march with the striking Memphis sanitation workers.
In 1983, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate each voted overwhelmingly, in veto-proof majorities, to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a national holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation on Nov. 2, 1983. The holiday was first observed in 1986, but it wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states recognized the holiday.
Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated with marches, parades and events with speeches from citizens, political and civil rights leaders.