Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday celebrated each year on the third Monday of January.  The celebration honors the birth, life, and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only national holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. To support this effort, schools, libraries, and most federal/state offices will be closed.

A time to remember the injustices against which King fought, the day is also a time to remember his fight for freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples through nonviolence.  Martin Luther King Jr. spent his time helping to define and create this culture, a person can see this fabric in Argonne’s core values of Impact, Respect, Integrity, and Teamwork.

History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

King was a clergyman and civil-rights leader.  He became minister of the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954 and led the boycott of segregated city bus lines in 1956. King gained a major victory as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to desegregate.

King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which provided a foundation to pursue additional civil-rights activities in the South and later nationwide.  King’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance resulted in numerous arrests in the 1950s and 60s. A 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama earned him worldwide attention.

In August of 1963, King brought together more than 200,000 people on the March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In 1964, at the age of 35, King was the youngest man, and only the third Black man, to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Famous quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 “People should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

As King’s notoriety grew, so did his interests in openly criticizing the Vietnam War and speaking out about

On April 4, 1968, Dr. the conditions of those living in poverty.  A planned Poor People’s March to Washington in 1968 was paused in order to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

Almost immediately after his death, calls for a national holiday in his honor began.  Beginning in 1970, several states and cities made his birthday, January 15, a holiday.  Congressman John Conyers and Senator Edward Brooke introduced legislation to establish a federal holiday in his name in the face of fierce racial and political opposition.

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law and the holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is usually celebrated with marches and parades and with speeches by civil rights and political leaders.  Individuals and organizations also undertake volunteer efforts in support of what is often called the MLK Day of Service.

The Argonne African American Employee Resource Group encourages everyone to participate in this day of service for the betterment of their communities.

(Photo: KNWA)

By Scott A. Ehling, CELS – Project Manager, Strategic Initiatives