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The Times
  • 5 things to know: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

  • Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of this slain civil rights leader.

    Schools, banks and government offices are closed and there will be no mail delivery.

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  • Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of this slain civil rights leader.
    Schools, banks and government offices are closed and there will be no mail delivery.
    Here are five things to know about this holiday:
    1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year, but King’s birthday is actually Jan. 15. This year, the presidential inauguration and the federal Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday both fall on Monday.
    2. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the request of civil rights activist E.D. Nixon after Rosa Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat. The boycott lasted for 385 days and ended with a United States District Court ruling that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. King, Ralph Abernathy and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 to organize black churches to conduct non-violent protests for civil rights reform.
    3. King is probably best remembered for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, at the March on Washington, which drew more than 200,000 people. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Plans were in the works for another march on Washington to draw attention to a widening range of issues, but King was killed by a sniper’s bullet on April 4, 1968, the day after telling supporters at a labor strike in Memphis, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” In 1969, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating King. He died in prison on April 23, 1998.
    4. The campaign calling for a federal holiday in honor of King began soon after he was assassinated in 1968, but it was 1983 before Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law and it was first observed Jan. 20, 1986. Initially, some states resisted observing the holiday as such; they gave it alternative names or combined it with other holidays. It wasn’t until 2000 that it was officially observed in all 50 states.
    5. The life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been honored with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named after him, and a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington, D.C., as well as a day to serve others. Projects planned for MLK weekend at sites across the country range from cleaning up a park to supporting children’s activities at a homeless shelter, from conducting a food drive and assembling care kits for service members and veterans to mucking out homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
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    Information for this article was assembled from online sources, including Wikipedia and mlkday.gov.
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