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Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be recognized on Monday, Jan. 15. While the holiday is always celebrated on the third Monday of January, this year it will fall on King’s birthday.

The holiday is one of several that fall on a specific Monday each year, thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. The law was enacted so that workers would have several long weekends throughout the year, including Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day), Memorial Day and Columbus Day.

Legislation to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day was initially introduced a mere four days after his April 4, 1968 assassination, according to the Smithsonian Institute.

But it wasn’t until Nov. 2, 1983 — after 15 years of activists campaigning for a holiday recognizing King and increasing public support with help from musician Stevie Wonder — that President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law. Since then, the third Monday in January has been a federal holiday to commemorate the civil rights leader.

The holiday has been recognized in all 50 states since early 2000.

The holiday is set aside to honor the life and work of Dr. King, and for Americans to “reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King,” according to Britannica.

It is also the only federal holiday set aside as a national day of service, meant to be “a day on, not a day off,” according to the Department of the Interior.