Luther King's death did not slow the Civil Rights Movement. Black
and white people continued to fight for freedom and equality. Coretta
Scott King is the widow of the civil rights leader. In 1970, she established
the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta, Ga. This "living
memorial" consists of his boyhood home and the Ebenezer Baptist
Church, where King is buried.
On Monday, January 20, 1986, in
cities and towns across the country people celebrated the first
official Martin Luther King Day, the only federal holiday commemorating
an African-American. A ceremony which took place at an old railroad
depot in Atlanta, Ga., was especially emotional. Hundreds had gathered
to sing and to march. Many were the same people who, in 1965, had
marched for 50 miles between two cities in the state of Alabama
to protest segregation and discrimination of black Americans.
All through the 1980's, controversy
surrounded the idea of a Martin Luther King Day. Congressmen and
citizens had petitioned the President to make Jan. 15, Martin Luther
King's birthday, a federal legal holiday. Others wanted to make
the holiday on the day he died, while some people did not want to
have any holiday at all.
Jan. 15 had been observed as a legal
holiday for many years in 27 states and Washington, D.C. Finally,
in 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared the third Monday in January
a federal legal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday.
Schools, offices and federal agencies
are closed for the holiday. On Monday there are quiet memorial services
as well as elaborate ceremonies in honor of Dr. King. On the preceding
Sunday, ministers of all religions give special sermons reminding
everyone of Dr. King's lifelong work for peace. All weekend, popular
radio stations play songs and speeches that tell the history of
the Civil Rights Movement. Television channels broadcast special
programs with filmed highlights of Dr. King's life and times.
Language Programs, Department of State