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Five Facts About Martin Luther King Jr. Day

How much do you know about the civil rights leader?

Five Facts About Martin Luther King Jr. Day
By Anthony Rando

On Jan. 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

He was a man who would eventually become the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a renowned leader in the advancement of civil rights around the world.

Today, Jan. 16, we celebrate the birth of King as a day to promote equality among all people, regardless of background or ethnicity.

Among his best-known accomplishments, King was a chief motivator in the movement to end racial segregation in the United States. He was the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and his beliefs in nonviolent activism reflected the work of Mahatma Gandhi.

Here’s a few lesser-known facts:

1. King is one of three people to have a federal holiday in his honor, the other two being George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Although the holiday celebrates King’s birthday, which was on Jan. 15, MLK Day is considered a floating holiday, and is always observed on the third Monday of January.

2. The original bill to make King’s birthday a federal holiday was introduced to Congress days after his death, but it didn’t pass until 1983. At the time, the main argument was that King never held public office, and that making a federal holiday based on a private citizen would break tradition. However, in 1983, Ronald Reagan signed the bill. In 1986 the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed.

3. Some states combine the observance of King’s birthday with other days. States like Arizona and New Hampshire combine MLK Day with Civil Rights Day, which is not recognized as a federal holiday. Others simultaneously observe Human Rights Day on King’s birthday, with the same belief -- equality for all. Some states, like Alabama and Arkansas, observe both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday on the third Monday in January.

4. King delivered his most famous address, the “I Have A Dream” speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. Considered to be one of the defining moments of the American Civil Rights Movement, King spoke for 17 minutes to more than 200,000 supporters, calling for an end to racial discrimination.

5. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. James Earl Ray, the accused murderer, was arrested in London two months later. The efforts to make King’s birthday a holiday began almost immediately, but it was another 15 years -- and 6 million petition signatures -- before the bill was finally passed.

Editor's note: Information provided by  timeanddate.com and factmonster.com.

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