In the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is observed annually on the third Monday in January. The day commemorates the life and work of Dr. King, who was a Baptist minister and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. People are encouraged to use the day to “reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King.” The holiday is typically observed with events such as marches and rallies and speeches by politicians and civil rights leaders.
King was born on January 15, 1929. He rose to the fore of the civil rights movement in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott that followed the arrest of Rosa Parks, an African American woman who had violated the city’s racial segregation ordinances when she refused to give her seat on a bus to a white passenger. An advocate of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of using nonviolent resistance to effect social change, King promoted the use of nonviolent means to bring an end to racial segregation in the United States. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts. He was assassinated in 1968.
Efforts to create a national holiday honoring King began soon after his assassination, although legislation for a federal holiday was not passed until 1983. The first nationwide observance of the holiday occurred in 1986.