January 19th, 2009 is this year's Martin Luther King, Junior, Federal Holiday. Americans celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. This movement worked for the rights of African-Americans in the U.S.
King was born on January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He graduated from college when he was 19 and went on to become a Baptist minister. Later, he got a doctorate in theology (religious studies).
King helped organize many non-violent protests to help blacks gain the same rights as whites. For example, he was president of a group that started a boycott of buses in Montgomery, Alabama. A city law said that bus drivers could tell passengers to give up their seats to others. When a black woman was arrested for not giving her seat to a white man, blacks in the city refused to use the buses for over a year. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court said the law was unconstitutional. King was arrested 30 times for taking part in protests.
In 1963, King gave his most famous speech, now known as "I Have a Dream". He spoke about how all people in the U.S. should be equal. He said, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
On April 4th, 1968, King was shot and killed. An escaped prisoner pleaded guilty to the murder.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a law to declare a holiday on the Monday closest to King's birthday. In 1994, Congress asked Americans to use the day for volunteer work -- a "Day of Service".
President Bush's proclamation for this day in 2009 says, " The historic election of Barack Obama as President of the United States reflects the real advances our Nation has made."
To read more about Martin Luther King and this holiday, click here.