What Is the Importance of MLK Day?

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MLK day, officially known in the United States as the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., commemorates the life and work of the civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was one of the key figures in the American Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century. King's activism made him a target of those who opposed his work, and the activist was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Calls to establish a holiday commemorating Dr. King's work began shortly after his death in 1968. Many states and cities around the U.S. established their own holidays remembering the slain activist, but a federal holiday was not established until 1983. Americans first observed MLK day three years later, in 1986. The holiday takes place on the third Monday of every January, which is close to Dr. King's birthday of January 15.

While Martin Luther King Jr. was not the only major activist participating in the Civil Rights Movement, his natural leadership ability and skill for public speaking quickly made him one of the movement's most recognizable members. Many of King's orations, such as the famous "I Have A Dream" speech, delivered during the 1963 March on Washington are recognized as some of the most important pieces of oration in American history.