MLK day is observed each year on the third Monday in January, in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy. King’s birthday is January 15.
MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities or reflect on civil rights and racial equity issues. It’s sometimes referred to as “a day on, not a day off.”
The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began after his 1968 assassination. President Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983. It was first observed three years later on January 20, 1986. At first, not all states recognized the holiday, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.