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Martin Luther King Holiday Commission Collection

Identifier: 017

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, press releases, statements, newsletters, clippings, conference packets, and correspondence which document efforts to establish a Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday The collection also includes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) national magazine; SCLC convention materials; items from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia; flyers; publications; and other historical items.


  • Creation: 1968-1990


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

No known restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

The campaign for a national holiday honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. began shortly after his assassination in 1968. However, it would be nearly twenty years before a bill to establish the holiday was passed by Congress. The advocacy of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Southern Christan Leadership Conference, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder were instrumental during the campaign.

Congress created the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission on November 2, 1984 to oversee the planning and publicity for the observance of Dr. King’s birthday. Coretta Scott King was the Chair of the Commission throughout its duration. The Commission was given funding for a five-year term, with the possibility of renewal. With an official proclamation from President Ronald Reagan, the first Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was observed on January 18, 1986. The commission was abolished on September 30, 1996.


4 Linear feet

8 Boxes


Series 1: Commission Files, 1972-1990
The series contains materials about the Commission's work, including meeting minutes, annual reports, routine correspondence, report on the first holiday, memoranda, legislation, and conference materials. It also contains items from organizations that supported the King holiday such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures, and the National Black Leadership Roundtable.

Series 2: Public Speeches, Statements and Remarks, 1968-88
This series includes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s 1968 statement of purpose for the Poor People's Campaign, statements regarding the 1983 March on Washington for Jobs, Peace and Freedom, a printed lecture; and speeches in honor of the first Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Series 3: Publicity, 1963, 1986-1990
This series contains clippings, flyers, brochures, event programs, promotional materials, newsletters, and news releases to promote the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the King film project, and items dating from marches and other events in the 1960s.

Series 4: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), 1969-1988
This series contains meeting minutes, conference packets, brochures, newsletters, and reports of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which was closely involved with efforts to establish the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The materials are primarily from the 1980s but also include a few historical documents from the early 1960s. The series also contains the SCLC magazine “SCLC” from 1986-1990.

Series 5: Publications, 1967-1969; 1980-1990
This series contains publications regarding civil rights and African Americans. It also contains a D.C. government manual for boards and commissions.

Custodial History

Brady B. Tyson (1918-2003), professor of international relations at American University, donated papers related to his participation in the D.C. and Federal Holiday Commissions. Dr. Tyson was also a member of the board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Processing Information

Standard archival processing procedures were applied to the collection when it was processed.

Martin Luther King Holiday Commission Collection
An inventory of Martin Luther King Holiday Commission Collection at DC Public Library
Finding aid prepared by DC Public Library, Special Collections.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, MLK Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001