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When Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 and Is It a Federal Holiday?

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/13/2022 Soo Kim

Next week the country will be observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which honors the birthday as well as life and legacy of the American civil rights leader.

Born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was an emerging leader of the civil rights movement the eight years leading up to August 1963 when he delivered his famed "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Addressing a crowd of 250,000, he spoke of his dream that the country would one day live up to its belief that "all men are created equal."

While he was in Memphis, Tennessee to support striking sanitation workers, the civil rights activist was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorates "the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership" as well as the "universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit," explains an excerpt from The Meaning of the King Holiday by Coretta Scott King, the activist's late wife.

"Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we 'will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life's most persistent and nagging question,' he said, is 'what are you doing for others?'," the excerpt says.

When Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022?

The day is observed on the third Monday in January. This means in 2022, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on January 17.


Video: MLK III on King holiday: "No celebration without legislation" (MSNBC)

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Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day a Federal Holiday?

Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday. This means many government offices are closed on the day, while some private businesses may shut.

Back in 1984 on August 27, former president Ronald Reagan signed legislation that established a commission to assist in the first observance of the federal legal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Then in 1986, on January 18, a presidential proclamation marked the first observance of King's birthday as a national holiday.

Later in 1994, on August 23, former President Bill Clinton signed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act. The new legislation expanded the goal of the holiday to be a day of community service, interracial cooperation and youth anti-violence initiatives.

King was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 "for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population."

He was also posthumously awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A close-up headshot of Martin Luther King Jr. from May 1966. Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images © Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images A close-up headshot of Martin Luther King Jr. from May 1966. Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images

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