Observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday by Serving Others

Celebrating the King Legacy in Our Communities - Monday, January 19, 2009

Just four days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., CBC member Congressman John Conyers, Jr. introduced legislation to honor the civil rights leader through the creation of a national holiday. "I thought long and hard about what would be the most appropriate way to commemorate this extraordinary man's life and work and decided a public holiday would be the best thing we could do," said Rep. Conyers in a panel co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Avoice Virtual Library and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in January 2008. After submitting the King Holiday Bill every year for fifteen years, the legislation finally passed and in 1983 the third Monday in January was made a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King.

Since its establishment the King Holiday has become not just a day to memorialize an important civil rights leader, but a national day of community service to keep alive Dr. King’s teachings of social justice. The King Holiday and Service Act was co-authored by Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA) and CBC member Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The day is viewed as “a day on, not a day off.” People are encouraged to honor King’s legacy by taking their day off of work to volunteer in their communities to improve the lives of others, bridge social barriers, and help bring about the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned.

View the January 2008 panel discussion of struggle to pass the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill.

Learn more about the history of the holiday in the Avoice Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill Exhibit.





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