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Holiday Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy

The day honoring the Civil Rights leader officially became a holiday in 1983 and is now known as a national day of service.

Holiday Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 21. For some, the national holiday honoring the prominent  civil rights activist is a time to give back and serve the community. For others, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves about  King and his life's work. And for still others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, now a U.S. holiday,  took 15 years to create. Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968.

The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington. 

Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states including Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day. 

Now, the corporation for National and Community Service has declared it an official  U.S. Day of Service. It is now part of the  United We Serve, the president's national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems, according to www.mlkday.gov.

Here's a roundup of what's closed in and around Downers Grove on the holiday:

  • U.S. Postal Service -- no mail delivery (express mail delivered)
  • Community High School District 99 -- no school
  • Downers Grove Grade School District 58 -- no school
  • Area banks -- most are closed
  • DuPage County Courthouse/government -- closed
  • Federal/state government -- closed

So tell us — What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you? What are you doing to commemorate King’s legacy? Let us know in the comments.

Editor's note: Written by Rachel Stern

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