Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Image of Dr. King


A Little History

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law, designating the third Monday in January a federal holiday in observance of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The legislation to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first introduced just four days after his assassination on April 4, 1968. However, it would take 15 years of persistence by civil rights activists for the holiday to be approved by the federal government and an additional 17 years for it to be recognized in all 50 states. Today, it is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer and improve their communities. 

This set of resources is designed to:
- Expand our collective understanding of the 32 years journey that led to the recognition of the King holiday in all 50 states
- Provide a more comprehensive picture of the social and political context surrounding Dr. King and his work
- Spotlight those who worked closely with Dr. King and played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement, although not all their names and stories are well-known
- Provide additional resources (primary sources and videos) and lesson plans to enrich the content that is currently being taught

Did you Know?

  1. Dr. King's name at birth was Michael. The civil rights activist was born Michael King, Jr. His father, Michael King, Sr. visited Germany in 1934 and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther. King Sr. began calling himself and eventually, his son- Martin Luther King.
  2. From 1957 to 1968, King traveled over 6 million miles and spoke over 2500 times.
  3. Dr. King was expelled from school in first grade because he did not meet the age requirements, but later skipped 9th and 12th grades and entered Morehouse College at 15 years of age. 
  4. There are approximately 900 streets named after MLK in the U.S. Seventy percent of the streets can be found in Southern states, including Alabama, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. 
  5. Dr. King won a Grammy posthumously for Best Spoken Word Recording at the 13th Grammy Awards in 1971 for "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam." He was nominated for a Grammy twice before he won this award. 

Five Fascinating Facts about the "I Have a Dream" Speech:


  1. The official event was called the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a nationally televised address calling for a drive for more civil rights. 
  2. The March was not universally supported by activists. Prominent objectors included Malcolm X and Strom Thurmond. The organizers didn't agree on all the issues either, but they did agree that people should march together at the event. 
  3. There were 10 speakers on the official program for the public event at the Lincoln Memorial- all of them were men. Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke right before King. There were no speakers after King, as organizers led the audience in a pledge and gave a benediction.
  4. King almost didn't give the "I Have a Dream" part of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Singer Mahalia Jackson urged King to tell the audience "about the dream" and King went into an improvised section of the speech. 
  5. The person who wound up with the typewritten speech given by King is retired college basketball coach George Raveling. A college basketball player at Villanova, organizers saw Raveling in the crowd and asked him to be a bodyguard on stage. He stood next to King on stage, and decided to ask him for the paper copy of the speech. King obliged and Raveling had the speech locked away in a safe place, with no intention of selling it. 

Additional Fun Facts about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Day Activities and Events in the Philadelphia Area

The History of the Holiday

The Social and Political Context of the King's Work

Books About Martin Luther King, Jr.