Honoring Dr. King
Our federal holidays honor the great heroes of our nation and it is only fitting that we celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. each year. This January, let us pause to not only acknowledge his contributions to our nation, but also to remember a time of great struggle in our history and to move forward.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. first introduced legislation to create a holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. four days after King was assassinated in 1968. It took 15 years of debate and grassroots organization in support of the bill to finally secure its passage and reserve the third Monday of January as a federal holiday to honor of King’s life and work.
Debates on the House and Senate floors over those 15 years illustrated the emotions in support of and against memorializing King’s role in United States history. Supporters championed the need to recognize a public figure who sought for national equality while the opposition put forth a resistance to the monetary costs of adding a tenth holiday to the federal calendar. In the end, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill became law in November 1983 as Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, and members of the CBC observed President Reagan sign the bill at the White House.
To read Congressional debates on the bill and learn more about the 15 years it took to pass, visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill Exhibit.