MLK Day: Honoring his life and legacy

  • Published
  • Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute

Each year, the Department of Defense joins the nation in honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a U.S. federal holiday marking the birthday of King. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King’s birthday, Jan. 15. This year, the MLK Day of Service will be recognized on Jan. 16.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. It represents a pivotal moment in the modern American civil rights movement. Additionally, it remains one of the most powerful stories of organizing and social change in U.S. history.

In Montgomery, Alabama, segregation was a part of everyday life. Black people were faced with Jim Crow laws in parks, schools, restrooms, theaters and buses.

One area of acrimony was the segregation law within the city bus system. The law stated that Black people could not sit in front of the bus, regardless of whether the seats were empty or not. They were required to pay their fares in the front of the bus, then walk to the backdoor to board the bus.

The campaign lasted from Dec. 5, 1955 — the Monday after Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for her refusal to surrender her seat to a white person — to Dec. 20, 1956. It ended with the United States Supreme Court’s decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

By the end of the boycott, King entered the national spotlight as a civil rights leader and an inspirational proponent of organized, nonviolent resistance.

The Defense Department understands that freedom, equality, and inclusion are true force multipliers and imperative to national defense and the strength of our nation.

In 1995, Congress designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the first and only federal holiday observed as a National Day of Service. Congress charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this national effort.

The MLK Day of Service is a way to channel King’s life and teachings into community action.

Each year, on the third Monday in January, the DoD joins the nation in honoring the life and legacy of King by making the holiday a day of community service – “A Day On, Not A Day Off.”

Americans answer the call to action by serving their neighborhoods and volunteering their time to make a positive difference in their communities. The men and women of the DoD honor King by living up to the standard he set. Together they ensure his legacy lives on, and as one DoD family, rise up to meet today’s challenges.

For more information, visit here and for community volunteer opportunities, visit here.