History of MLK Day as a Day of Service


Martin Luther King Jr. Day honors the life and memory of the civil rights leader, first observed in 1986 after legislation was passed making it a national holiday in 1983. The national holiday gives kids a day off from school, banks close, and many businesses shut their doors in remembrance. In 1994, however, the holiday became much more than a day off when congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act. “The MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service,” writes the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.” 

If you want to learn even more about the process of turning this national holiday into a day of service, read President Clinton’s reflections on signing the King Holiday and Service Act here.

Since 1994, the day of service initiative has grown and participation has increased as non-profits, corporations, and other organizations rally on the third Monday of January to give back to their community. We’d love to hear from people who are using this holiday as a day of service. How are you giving back this year and honor the memory of MLK? Share your story on our Facebook page!

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