Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year. King's birthday is January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of King. The federal legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994. Since 1996, Wofford's former state office director, Todd Bernstein, has been directing the annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service, the largest event in the nation honoring King.
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 20, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.