Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service
Legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The federal holiday was first observed in 1986.
In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
Participation in the MLK Day of Service has grown steadily over the past decade, with hundreds of thousands of Americans each year engaging in projects such as tutoring and mentoring children, painting schools and senior centers, delivering meals, building homes, and reflecting on Dr. King’s life and teachings. Many of the projects started on King Day continue to engage volunteers beyond the holiday and impact the community year-round.
Although the scope of the event grows every year, many people are still not aware of the service component of the holiday. Many American Democracy Project colleges and universities organize and sponsor MLK Day educational and volunteer activities.
Below are links to resources that may be useful to you as you plan MLK Day events and activities. Please check the TDC News for descriptions of what TDC member institutions have done to commemorate MLK Day. You’ll also find a MLK Day Toolkit that our sister initiative, ADP, co-authored in 2010 with NASPA.
(Source: Corporation for National and Community Service, MLK Day of Service website – www.mlkday.gov)
MLK Day Resources
- Toolkit: Planning an MLK Day of Service for Colleges and Universities: A Collection of Resources (pdf)
In 2007, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in partnership with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) created a collection of resources for planning an MLK Day for colleges and universities. We updated the original MLK Day Guide in 2010. The guide is packed full of tips for funding, project organization, volunteer management, and much more. The campus case studies section includes examples from the 2009 MLK Day. Additionally, the revised MLK Day guide includes a blog post from Harry Boyte about how campuses might incorporate Civic Agency/We the People ideas into their celebrations.