U.S. Observes Holiday Honoring Civil Rights Icon

Americans across the country pause Monday to observe the annual federal holiday marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

The holiday was created in 1983, when then-president Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honor King, who was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The U.S. Congress designated the King holiday as a national day of service in 1994, a move aimed at encouraging Americans to take part in community projects.

King first rose to prominence in 1955, when he led a successful boycott of the public bus lines in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregation of black passengers. He would go on to become the foremost public figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, inspiring millions with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year a landmark civil rights bill that ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, was signed by president Lyndon Johnson.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he traveled to assist striking black garbage workers seeking equal pay.

VOA News / Jan. 21, 2014 08:18 KST