In 1983, a federal holiday marking the birthday of King was created. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service.
On the third Monday in January, Americans can work together on community projects. The MLK Day of Service is "day on, not a day off."
King was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation.
Following in the footsteps of his father, in February 1948, at the age of 19, King began training to become a minister and was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
In 1954, after graduate studies at Boston University, he became pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, he was a leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, made famous by the nonviolent resistance and arrest of Rosa Parks. He resigned this position in 1959 to move back to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1960 until his death in 1968, he also served as co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
King was arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities. While he preached about justice, empowerment, love, and peace, in the final months of his life, his attention was turned to fighting poverty.
King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, and died on April 4, 1968. He had gone to Memphis to help lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and poor working conditions.
See the website of the Corporation for National and Community Service for information on how you can participate in the MLK Day of Service.