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Top 10 US Holidays—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of January every year. King's birthday was on January fifteenth, so the holiday is timed to coincide right around his birthday.
Labor unions promoted the holiday as part of contract negotiations, and then in 1968, four days after the assassination of King, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan introduced a bill that would make it a national holiday. The bill stalled in Congress, and petitions started to emerge in support of making it a holiday. Conyers and New York Democrat Shirley Chisholm, a Representative from New York, continued to submit the bill every session, and pressure to turn Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into a holiday continued to build until the 1980s. It officially became a national holiday in 1983.
Some of the opposition was due to people who questioned whether celebrating King's life was enough to honor the Civil Rights Movement, which was about more individuals than just King. Others felt that what King stood for was not patriotic. Senator Jesse Helms had issues with King's opposition to the Vietnam War and also referred to King's leadership within the Civil Rights Movement as "action-oriented Marxism." However, many felt that King was the figurehead of the movement and deserved to be celebrated as a patriotic figure.
Around the country, the holiday is typically celebrated with the closure of all levels of government. Some schools close, while others stay open and choose to focus their lessons on the man honored by the holiday.