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US Observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

  • VOA News

FILE - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaks to residents at the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago's South Side, July 24, 1965.

FILE - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaks to residents at the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago's South Side, July 24, 1965.

Americans across the country are pausing Monday to observe the federal holiday marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

King first rose to prominence in 1955 when he led a successful boycott of the public buses in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregating black passengers. He became the central figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, inspiring millions with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year a landmark civil rights bill was signed by President Lyndon Johnson.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to assist striking black garbage workers who were seeking equal pay.

The holiday was created in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honor King, who was born on January 15, 1929. Congress designated the King holiday as a national day of service in 1994, a move aimed at encouraging Americans to take part in community projects.

In honor of Dr. King, cable television's MTV is airing its programming Monday in black and white for twelve hours to encourage viewers to have conversations with their friends and family about race. The monochrome broadcast is a first in the youth-oriented channel's 34-year history.

MTV programming on Monday will include reflections on race from entertainers and public officials.

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