Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King’s birthday, January 15.
The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. For years, some states declined to participate in the holiday, and Arizona lost the opportunity to host a Super Bowl over it. In 2000, South Carolina became the last state to recognize the holiday.
Had an assassin’s bullet not taken his life at the age of 39, King would have turned 90 years-old this year.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was given prior to the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963. The march was a peaceful protest against inequality. King began the speech by referencing the Emancipation Proclamation that was issued by President Lincoln to officially free slaves in the United States during the Civil War. King used this reference to point out how African-Americans were, at that time, not yet free from racism, despite the Emancipation Proclamation being signed nearly 100 years prior.
King then described some of the ways the society of that time was segregated and the limitations racism placed on African-Americans. He also listed the “unfulfilled promises” in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to provide examples of continued racism. King explained how these documents list rights given to U.S. citizens, and profess that men are created equal, yet African-Americans were, at that time, not treated as equals.