Martin Luther King, Jr.

"This is not a black holiday; it is a people's holiday," -- Coretta Scott King, Nov. 2, 1983. 

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he expanded American values to include the vision of a color blind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means. By the time of his assassination in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam War. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.