When is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday and Holiday

March 6, 2019
Martin Luther King Jr.

The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. Here is why we celebrate MLK Day—plus, more about this influential American, civil rights leader, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. He was a Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement, championing justice and equality from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. As he said, ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King was also a strong advocate of change through nonviolent civil actions based on his Christian values. He was a great speaker, and his powerful words resonate with us today.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It has been a federal holiday since 1986. This means that it is a day off for federal employees, as well as for many schools and businesses. This also means that the holiday does not always fall on Martin Luther King Jr.’s true birth date, January 15.

Year Martin Luther King Jr. Day
2020 Monday, January 20
2021 Monday, January 18
2022 Monday, January 17

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 in Georgia into a Christian family. His grandfather was a church pastor, his father became a pastor, and then he became a pastor.

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

Graduating from high school at the age of 15, Martin Luther King went on to receive his B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College. After 3 years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class and awarded the B.D. in 1951. After winning a fellowship at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, and they started a family.

See more facts about the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.!

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In 1954, Martin Luther King Jr. had become pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights, King believed in nonviolence, following Gandhi’s philosophy.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

The Fight Against Segregation

In 1955, he began his struggle to persuade the U.S. government to declare the policy of racial discrimination unlawful. He led the first large nonviolent demonstration against segregated buses. However, racists responded with violence to his nonviolent initiative.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

In Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963, King’s campaign to end segregation at lunch counters and in hiring practices drew nationwide attention when the police turned dogs and fire hoses on the demonstrators. King was jailed along with large numbers of his supporters, including hundreds of schoolchildren. His supporters did not, however, include all the black clergy of Birmingham, and he was strongly opposed by some of the white clergy who had issued a statement urging African Americans not to support the demonstrations. From the Birmingham jail, King wrote a letter of great eloquence in which he spelled out his philosophy of nonviolence:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

In December 1956, the Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional.

In 1957, King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He led according to his beliefs from Christianity, with nonviolent influences from Gandhi. He traveled greatly, wrote five books and numerous articles, and led many initiatives to campaign for the proper voter registration of blacks.

“I Have a Dream”

On August 28, 1963, King directed a march of 250,000 demonstrators to Washington, D.C., where he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was that the inhabitants of the United States would be judged by their personal qualities and not by the color of their skin:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

The following year, President Johnson signed a law prohibiting all racial discrimination. 

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Photo: President Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964 in Washington D.C. as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others look on. 

In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 35 for his peaceful campaign against racism. He turned over the prize money of $54,123 to support the civil rights movement. Here is his acceptance speech.

Peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by a racist while speaking in Tennessee in support of the struggling garbage workers of that city. It had been only 4 years earlier that he had received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism.

How We Observe MLK Day

Americans are often encouraged to observe this day not simply as a day off from work, but also as a “Day of Service” to others through appropriate civic, community, and service projects.

Think of MLK Day as an opportunity to give to others in any way you can—whether it’s a community project or simply being kind to others in your community.

Visit www.MLKDay.gov to find Day of Service projects across the country.

Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace …
–Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Photo: A statue of Dr. King stands at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

See 9 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr., courtesy of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

 

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Reader Comments

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Happy Birthday Martin & Jackie

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King (15Jan)! Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson (31Jan)! Two great AMERICANS who changed the WORLD. Your legacies will live forever.

Martin Luther King

Happy birthday to u! Thank u for teaching us all people are relevant n worthy.

One UP

MLK fought for and stood for what he believed in, and didn't let people like Alex below to subjugate him and his belief for equal rights for all Americans, asians black white hispanic, natives, etc. OOH RAH!

-Camp Pendleton CA

MLK Day

WHY IS MLK birthday not observed on his actually birthday?

MLK day.

MLK day is a federal holiday. The day is set on the third Monday of January so it can be observed by federal employees, schools, banks and such, and businesses who choose. This way the day each year does not change, even though the date does, like many other holidays.

MLK day 2017

I have always loved history. Those who lived in such a way as to inspire future generations did not live in vain. Dr. King surely was such a man. I believe, as he, that the real issue with many folks is not that of race, but of character. A lack of solid moral character allows one to follows their own senseless, hateful mind, for no other reason than that they are compelled to do so. Unkindness and cruelty grow from a root of hate.
I am a white woman who grew up poor and unpopular in the South. I was not judged for the color of my skin but for being a little girl, then a teen, who did not have possessions and popularity. My mother taught me by word and example to be a kind person and help those in need. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way we--all races-- have stopped teaching our children and teens these simple truths. Maybe we have not been practicing them ourselves.
Surely the wrongdoers of any race need to be accountable, but we need to learn to believe, as this gentle man we remember, love and peaceful protest, while declaring truth, speaks much louder than anger.

MARTIN LUTHER KING

I know when MLK day is observed, but what I really want to know is when is his birthdate?

Martin Luther King

The Editors's picture

Good question. Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929.

I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN HIM.....

HE WAS SUCH A GREAT PERSON... I'M SO THANKFUL FOR EVERYTHING HE HAS DONE...HOW COULD PEOPLE HATE HIM,HE ONLY WANTED TO MAKE THINGS BETTER....

happy birthday to the one man

Happy birthday to the one man who could stand up for his people and not be afraid of what was coming your and I am sure we all wish you were still here with us today!!!

amen on that. he was a good

amen on that. he was a good man.

MLK Day

I agree. Such an inspiration.

happy birthday martin luther king

Happy Birthday. He inspired me so much.

As a 71-year-old white man, I

As a 71-year-old white man, I must add my gratitude to MLK and everyone who battled with him for improving MY world.

Happy Birthday...We the

Happy Birthday...We, the people, are still having the fight of race. We, as minorities, still have to protect ourselves.
Jeff H- St.Louis,Mo

RIP MLK we still fighting the

RIP MLK we still fighting the fight

MLK

I just want to say that he and his family made a really big impact on the rights and the way we live today and I wish I could say to him and his family...THANK YOU!
I will always remember him and the others who fought for me and black children to have the rights that we have today!
R.I.P.-- I LOVE YOU FOREVER,THANK YOU

Rest In Peace Thank You

Rest In Peace. Thank You for Standing up For Us. Some People Still Hate Us! If ONLY YOU WERE HERE. AWWE MAN!

Happy birthday Mr. King

Happy birthday, Mr. King, Sir.

Happy bday

Happy bday

Thank you, and Mrs Coretta

Thank you, and Mrs Coretta Scott King far being a Leader too us all lol.

Dr. Martin Luther King!

He is and will always be a great and missed man. Dr. Martin Luther King!!! :-)

Happy Birthday Sir! You are

Happy Birthday Sir! You are truly missed.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Excellent Baptist Minister. I am so upset that he passed away at the young adult age of 39. I will say prayers for him and his family on Sunday and Monday this week and for every day of my Life.

Happy Birthday Dr. King

Happy Birthday Dr. King

happy birthday Martin Luther

happy birthday Martin Luther King Jr.

i have the same birthday as

i have the same birthday as Martin Luther King Jr and rip

rest in peace

rest in peace

Where are the great moral

Where are the great moral values? King used to challenge segregation and racism. In only forty-three years we've forgotten them.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday, Martin Luther King.