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MLK Day 2017: Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day A Federal Holiday?

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Is MLK Day A Federal Holiday

Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Federal holidays, or government-sanctioned holidays, are days in which federal offices are closed but still compensate federal employees with regular pay. What exactly designates a holiday as federal? The criteria has disseminated throughout time, giving a rough idea of what qualifies as federal.


There are 11 permanent ‘National Holidays’ that congress has granted:

  • Friday, January 1: New Year’s Day
  • Monday, January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Monday, February 20: Washington’s Birthday
  • Monday, May 29: Memorial Day
  • Tuesday, July 4: Independence Day
  • Monday, September 4: Labor Day
  • Monday, October 9: Columbus Day
  • Friday, November 10: Veterans Day
  • Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving Day
  • Monday, December 25: Christmas Day

New Year’s Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day are the original federal holidays, made official back in the 1870s.

Given today’s diverse population, there has been much controversy that several religions lack federal equality by not having their holidays recognized by the government.


What Makes MLK Day A Federal Holiday?

While January 15 is Martin Luther King’s actual birthday, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday each January. King was a spokesman for nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights era, and it was after his assassination in 1968 when many called to congress to honor the American hero.

President Ronald Reagan signed off on the holiday in 1983, but the first official celebration wasn’t honored until 1986. It was not observed officially by all 50 states until 2000. U.S. Representative John Conyers and U.S. Senator Edward Brooke were instrumental in making MLK Day a federal celebration by first introducing the bill to Congress in 1979, where it fell short by five votes. The main argument behind those against it was that enough money was not readily available and that honoring a private citizen was contrary to American tradition.

The general public and community would then go to work, helping by signing off on a petition with over six million public approvals. Stevie Wonder would also release a hit single, “Happy Birthday,” popularizing the campaign in 1980. A year later, hosting the Rally for Peace Press Conference, the holiday was cemented.

The road was winding and bumpy, but King eventually received the respect he deserved. Happy MLK Day to everyone!


COED Writer
Peter Forsee is an aspiring sports writer with a strong interest in MLB, NFL and NCAA college football. He has experience covering collegiate baseball as both a writer and broadcaster in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Peter is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism emphasizing in Sport Management.