On this day in 1929, world-reknowned African American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. An activist, pastor, and humanitarian who forever changed many people’s thinking, he was as important to the labor movement as he was to striving toward racial equality.
In a 1965 speech to the state convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, King stated, “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life.”
To mark his Jan. 15 birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of every January. Legislation making the federal holiday official was not passed until 1983, when then-President Ronald Reagan, who initially opposed the holiday and threatened to veto the bill, signed it into law.
Labor and civil rights demonstrations, as well as a general sense of celebration, annually accompany the King holiday weekend.