The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew something about the power of service to others. As the preeminent leader of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties, the Baptist pastor was a visionary who peacefully pushed for a free, multiracial society and economic equality for all. The federal holiday to observe his birthday, occurring each year on the third Monday in January, was established in 1986; however, in 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the holiday as a national day of service—“a day on, not a day off.” MLK Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as such to encourage all Americans to volunteer in service to their communities.
The MLK Jr. Day of Service encourages all types of volunteering, particularly for projects that have a lasting impact, meet a pressing community need, and include time to reflect on Dr. King's teachings. Here are some ways to reflect on his enduring legacy:
1. Take a self-guided walking tour. Walk through the area of Austin that was originally created to segregate Blacks, in 1928, and reflect on how walking played a critical role in the Civil Rights Era.
2. Watch Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Afterward, reflect on how Dr. King’s words resonate in your own life and community.
3. Watch King in the Wilderness, a film that follows Dr. King during the last years of his life, from the passage of the Voting Rights Act, in 1965, to his assassination in 1968.
Looking for reading material? Here are some kid-friendly books to learn more about Dr. King and his work fighting for equality:
~The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biography Book for New Readers by Christine Platt
~We March by Shane W. Evans
~This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges