GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Each year on the 3rd Monday of January we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day and reflect on the work that still needs to be done for racial equality.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential civil rights leader best known for his passionate work on racial equality and ending racial segregation in the United States. On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law creating a federal holiday to honor King. The first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed on January 20, 1986.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not only a federal holiday, it is also the first holiday honoring an African American. The holiday is set on the Monday nearest to King’s birthday.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is also known as a day of service to help raise awareness, mobilize volunteers and provide individuals with an opportunity to engage and build new connections, and help non-profits find support for their programs. It’s a day intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions and move closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

You can observe this day by learning more about the life of Dr. King, reading his works as well as those from his family. Take the time to both understand and support civil rights and the issue facing communities of color still today. Have a conversation, create a dialogue about racial injustice. It’s through open conversation that we educate and support each other to create a brighter future.

Timeline:

January 15th, 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA.

May 17th, 1957 King makes his first address to the nation, ‘Give Us the Ballot,’ at the Prayer Pilgrimage for freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

August 28th, 1963 King delivers his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial on the day that more than 200,000 demonstrators participated in the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.

December 10th, 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

March 21st – 25th, 1965 King led 25,000 demonstrators on a roughly 50-mile political march known as the ‘March from Selma’, or the ‘Selma to Montgomery March’. These events become a landmark in the American Civil Rights Movement and directly led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

April 4th, 1958 After delivering his final speech ‘I’ve been to the Mountaintop’ in Memphis the day before, King Jr. is shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

-1986 Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed for the very first time.

-2000 Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed by all 50 states for the first time.

Lesser known facts about King:

  1. The civil rights leader was given the name Michael King Jr. at birth. His father later changed his own name as well as his sons to Martin Luther, after the Protestant Reformation leader.
  2. King started college at the age of 15. He skipped grades 9 -12 and enrolled at Morehouse College in 1944.
  3. According to the King Center, Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail a total of 29 times.
  4. His last public speech may have foreshadowed his death. King said in a speech the night before he was assassinated, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now, I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get the to Promised Land.”