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Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

January 19, 2026

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! On this day in 1929, minister and activist leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. A figurehead of the American civil rights movement, he was a proponent of civil disobedience and non-violent protest.

Persevering despite death threats, abuse, and arrest, he rose to the national stage, directing the 1963 March on Washington (where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech), advising U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and becoming the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Did you know? It took over 15 years for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to come into being. In the year after King’s death, Congressman John Conyers Jr. introduced legislation to create the federal holiday. Three years later, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference also presented Congress with a petition for a holiday, but the bill stalled for years without sufficient support.

By the early 1980s, efforts by figures such as Coretta Scott King and Stevie Wonder pushed the bill through the House and, eventually, the Senate. In 1983, President Reagan signed the bill into law, finally making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday on the third Monday of January.

King loved jazz, gospel, and hymns and was surrounded by music throughout his life. During his childhood, he sang in the church choir and his mother served as music director and organist. His wife, Coretta Scott King, was a singer at the New England Conservatory of Music when the two first met. In later years, King gave an address on the importance and power of jazz at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival.

 

 

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mathew Ahmann in a crowd), Rowland Scherman, 1963

Written by Anna Zemaitaitis, Communications and Design Officer

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Date:
January 19, 2026
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