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Martin Luther King Day - January 20, 2014
The Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. , often called Martin Luther King Day, is a United States holiday honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King's birthday, January 15. It is the only United States federal holiday commemorating an African American and one of only four to commemorate an individual person.
Martin Luther King Day was founded as a holiday promoted by labour unions in contract negotiations. After King's death in 1968, John Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday, highlighting King's activism on behalf of trade unionists. Unions did most of the promotion for the holiday throughout the 1970s. In 1976, trade unionists helped to elect Jimmy Carter, who endorsed the King Day bill. After that endorsement, union influence in the King holiday campaign declined, and the King Center turned to support from the corporate community and the general public. The success of this strategy was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday (1980 song)" to popularize the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. 6 million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law, termed by a 2006 ''The Nation'' article as "...the largest petition in favor of an issue in US history."
Opposition to the bill was led by Senator Jesse Helms, who questioned whether MLK was important enough to receive such an honor. He was also critical of King's opposition to the Vietnam War and accused King having Communist connections.
President Ronald Reagan was also opposed to the holiday, and also insinuated that King was a Communist. He relented in his opposition only after Congress passed the King Day Bill with an overwhelming, veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate).
At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.
On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 U.S. states. The day is marked by demonstrations for peace, social justice and racial equality|racial and class equality, as well as a national day of volunteer community service.
On January 16, 2006 Greenville County, South Carolina was the last county in the U.S. to officially adopt Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday.
In Utah, Martin Luther King Day is also known as ''Human Rights Day''; similarly, in Arizona and New Hampshire, Martin Luther King Day is also known as ''Civil Rights Day''.
Although the day is a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states, it is usually not observed by small private companies except for banks. Many large corporations close their operations (more so than on Veterans Day or Columbus Day, which are also federal holidays, but less so than on holidays such as Memorial Day or Labor Day when virtually all corporations are closed), but small shops, restaurants, and grocery stores tend to remain open. The reasons for this have varied, ranging from the recent addition of the holiday (each year more businesses are closed than the year before) to its occurrence just two weeks after the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, when many businesses are closed for part of or sometimes all of the week. Additionally, some schools and places of higher education are closed for classes; others remain open but may hold seminars or celebrations of Dr. King's message.
Martin Luther King Day will fall on the following date next year:
2007: January 15th
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