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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Honoring legacy of most prominent racism fighter in U.S.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Honoring legacy of most prominent racism fighter in U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. (Getty Images)

Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent leader in the Civil Rights movement, known for advocating nonviolent actions against racial inequality in the United States. Every third Monday of January, the U.S. celebrates King's birthday, who was actually born on January 15, 1929, according to USA Today.

Martin Luther King's legacy

Being a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. became well-known for fighting against racial segregation in the mid-20th century. He believed in using peaceful methods to bring about change. In 1955, he gained national attention when African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama, boycotted buses. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and led a significant event called the March on Washington in 1963.

During the 1960s, he was one of the most important leaders in the African American civil rights movement. He played a key role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it illegal to discriminate based on race in public places, jobs, and facilities. He also contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring equal voting rights for all.

King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, became a symbol of fighting against racism in the U.S. and is cited and recognized in pop culture until nowadays.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Honoring legacy of most prominent racism fighter in U.S.Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a speech (Getty Images)

King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his significant achievement.

How King's birthday became an American national holiday

Despite his significant contributions, it took nearly two decades after his assassination in 1968 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to become a federally recognized holiday in 1986. The bill faced resistance in 1983, but a petition with 6 million signatures contributed to its passage. It took 15 years for civil rights activists to succeed in making the holiday nationally observed, with President Ronald Reagan signing the bill on November 2, 1983. It took even longer for all 50 states to officially establish the holiday by the year 2000.

The federal government honors Martin Luther King Jr. by shutting down. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not just a day off; it is also a national day of service. Americans are encouraged to volunteer and improve their communities in honor of King's legacy. Across the nation, various events and ceremonies take place to honor King, including activities organized by the King Center in Atlanta and the NAACP's King Day at the Dome event.

Musician Stevie Wonder played a crucial role in gaining public support for the holiday. His song "Happy Birthday" dedicated to King, along with his public appearances and benefit concert on the National Mall, helped to gain public support.