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MLK Day
Major holiday before thisNew Year's Day
Major holiday after thisPresidents Day

MLK Day 2019 and 2020

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, also known as MLK Day, is celebrated every third Monday in January to remember the birth and life of the famous civil rights leader.

Year Date Day Holiday States
2019 21 Jan Mon Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday National
2020 20 Jan Mon Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday National

The holiday is officially known as the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and marks his birthday. King’s actual birthday was 15 January, but the date chosen for celebration is the third Monday of January each year. The day was also previously known as Civil Rights Day in New Hampshire and Arizona.

MLK Jr. was born on 15 January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked as a Baptist minister and a civil rights activist and began making a significant impact on race relations in the mid-1950s. As head of the SCLC, he was also a major spokesperson for nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights Movement. This movement protested very successfully the racial discrimination perpetuated in federal and state law.

MLK therefore played a significant role in ending legal segregation of African-Americans in the South and across the nation, in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and also in the creation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. MLK is famous for his 1963, “I Have a Dream”. He received many honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, before he was assassinated in April 1968.

Following King’s assassination in 1968, a rather immediate campaign was made to create a federal holiday in his honor. The holiday was finally signed into law in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. By 1986, it was first observed. Some states refused to acknowledge the holiday for many years. It was not until 2000 that all fifty states in the United States celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.