Civil Rights Day

When is Civil Rights Day?

Civil Rights Day is an alternative name for the national holiday named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Certain states have chosen to celebrate the same holiday under both names in order to celebrate civil rights as a whole, including all of the contributions made by activists during the 1960s and beyond. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Civil Rights Day occurs every third Monday in January.

A Day Dedicated to Human Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most notable figures in the history of human rights. He is recognized as the leading activist during the Civil Rights Movement, which hit its peak during the 1960s. King is credited with forming the largest campaigns to promote racial equality and desegregation. He was also the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated in 1968, but his work hasn’t been forgotten.

Activists continued with King’s work after his death, but they also wanted him to be remembered on a much larger scale. An idea soon circled about creating a holiday to coincide with his birthday, which was January 15th. It took many years for the idea to come together to create a national holiday. In 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day officially became a federal holiday after President Ronal Reagan signed it into law.

The holiday has since been observed every third Monday in January to create an extended weekend so people can celebrate. King’s birthday is still recognized every year. Sometimes the holiday falls on his birthday. The last time this happened was on January 15, 2007. It will occur again on January 15, 2018.

Individual State Involvement

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday, which means that all government offices and public schools are closed in observance. However, states still have the option of celebrating the holiday in ways they see fit. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that all states recognized the holiday – nearly two decades after it was signed into law.

Other states have taken a step further by combining national celebrations with a state-endorsed holiday. This is how Civil Rights Day came to fruition. It was first created by New Hampshire in 1991, where the state looked to replace Fast Day. Arizona tried to create Civil Rights Day in the late 1980s, but not everyone in the state government was on board. In fact, Arizona didn’t officially create the state holiday until 1992.

Utah and Idaho have also taken steps to create a state-wide holiday to coincide with the federal day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is most commonly referred to as Human Rights Day. Some southern states have chosen to celebrate a day of Civil Rights in conjunction with Robert E. Lee’s birthday. While celebrating the activist alongside a Confederate general seems like an oxymoron, this is a sign of changing social and cultural views.

How to Celebrate Civil Rights Day

The extent of official Civil Rights Day celebrations vary depending on where you live. While all states now recognize MLK Day, the celebrations may be bigger in states that also celebrate Civil Rights Day. Washington, D.C. is also a hot-spot on the holiday because of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Visitors may also stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the National Mall, which opened in 2011.

There are numerous other types of celebrations for Civil Rights Day. The public may hold peaceful rallies to bring up human rights issues, while others hold small memorials and presentations to celebrate King. Children often learn about the civil rights movement in school during the weeks leading up to Civil Rights Day.