Martin Luther King Day celebrates life and accomplishment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK promoted Civil Rights through nonviolent civil disobedience. He is perhaps best known for his 'I have a dream...' speech in 1963. He was assassinated in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. day became a federally recognized holiday in 1983. The first year this holiday was observed was 1986, and not by all states. In 2000, it became a nationally observed holiday in all states. Martin Luther King Jr. Day takes place on the third Monday of January each year.