Honoring a civil rights leader who gave his life for justice
A federal U.S. holiday on January 21, but it's not a holiday in India. Martin Luther King Day pays tribute to the best-known leader of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. King fought to see racial justice and equality become a reality in America. He is the only African American to have a federal holiday named in his honor.
This is a federal holiday in U.S. Government offices, schools, banks, the stock market and many businesses are closed. The most inclusive approach for companies is to offer it as a part of their holiday schedule. People often use this opportunity to take their children to events that demonstrate King's legacy for future generations. Establishing a federal holiday in King's name is seen by many as an appropriate gesture by a country that has struggled to live up to its own principles regarding equality and justice. Companies that do not offer this holiday as an option for employees may invite negative publicity and discrimination claims.
Since this observance falls on a Monday, at the end of the second weekend in January, it is difficult to plan a theme day unless it falls on or close to King's actual birth date of January 15. A good way to foster appreciation for the importance the holiday is to host special events or exhibits related to Dr. King during the weeks prior to the holiday, itself.
This holiday has only been an official observance since 1986. That it took so long to become official, and has been such a challenge to institutionalize on the state and local levels, heightens its significance for most African Americans, who feel strongly about observing it as an official day off. Many outside the black community feel the same way, and demonstrate their respect for Martin Luther King as well as for their African American colleagues by choosing this date as one of their federal holiday options. Many private companies, however, do not include this observance on their official holiday schedule. The NAACP keeps a file of complaints from employees whose companies do not allow for Martin Luther King Day as a holiday option. A number of such complaints have come from companies in the South, where entrenched racist attitudes are still reflected in certain communities. Such exclusion is insensitive, and may be perceived as antagonistic by African Americans as well as those of other racial backgrounds sympathetic to the historical struggles of the black community.
Martin Luther King Day is observed at U.S. embassies abroad, and in affiliated territories such as Puerto Rico. Communities in some countries observe Martin Luther King Day in an unofficial capacity. In Canada, churches hold services on the Sunday closest to January 15.