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US Observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day

  • VOA Staff
  • Sithandekile Mhlanga

March On Washington Photo Gallery

March On Washington Photo Gallery

King led a successful boycott of the public buses in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregating black passengers.

The United States Monday honored the legacy of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr, with activities across the country, which included wreath laying in Maryland, volunteer service activities by churches and community groups, and a rally in South Carolina.

King, who was assassinated in 1968, first rose to prominence in 1955 when he led a successful boycott of the public buses in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregating black passengers. He became the central 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 in Washington.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year a landmark civil rights bill was signed by President Lyndon Johnson.

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

In honor of Dr. King, cable television's MTV is airing its programming Monday in black and white for twelve hours to encourage viewers to have conversations with their friends and family about race. The monochrome broadcast is a first in the youth-oriented channel's 34-year history.

MTV programming on Monday will include reflections on race from entertainers and public officials.

Last Sunday, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey led a cast of the movie “Selma” in a march to usher the Martin Luther king Jnr holiday. The movie chronicles events leading to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the passage of the 1965 voting rights act.

Handel Mlilo, a Zimbabwean based in the United States, says much needs to be done to realize King’s dream, following various incidents across the country in which unarmed black men were shot to death by police, causing tension and violence.

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