Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is being observed across the United States on Monday, as the nation remembers the famous slain civil rights icon.
Held every year on the third Monday of January, the holiday is noted for closure of schools, being a time of reflection on race relations, and, for many, a day of community volunteerism.
2018 marks 50 years since King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, having gone to the city to support a strike by sanitation workers.
Here are seven interesting facts about MLK Day. They include the observance's origins, some controversial ways to observe, and recent developments happening this year.
A Recent Holiday
Efforts to make Dr. King's birthday, Jan. 15, a national holiday had existed since not long after his assassination, though none had been successful until the 1980s.
Republican President Ronald Reagan signed House Resolution 3706 into law on Nov. 2, 1983, making the third Monday of January "Martin Luther King Jr. Day."
"King was granted an honor that had, until that time, belonged only to George Washington," noted Time Magazine in a 2015 article.
"Congress passed a bill designating his birthday as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the third Monday in January, starting in 1986."
A Shared Holiday
While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday is recognized nationwide, a few Southern states have been known to add Confederate General Robert E. Lee to the observance.
Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi paired up the civil rights leader with the Confederate general for their observance, as General Lee's birthday falls on January 19.
Southern states already had a tradition of celebrating Lee's birthday, so King's was added to their annual observance, according to National Geographic.
For its part, Lee's home state of Virginia celebrated a holiday that featured Lee, King, and Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson until 2000.
"And until that year, MLK Day was an optional paid holiday in South Carolina, where state employees had to choose between MLK Day or three other Confederate holidays," explained National Geographic.
A Copyrighted Figure
When celebrating Dr. King's legacy, media entities have to be careful, as the King Estate keeps a strict copyright control over his speeches and images.
Networks and others who fail to pay money to broadcast items like King's famed "I Have a Dream" speech have found themselves in court.
"In the 1990s, the estate sued USA Today for publishing the full text of the 'I Have a Dream' speech King delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, and the newspaper quickly settled by paying for a license and attorneys' fees," wrote Jonathan Band, a copyright lawyer and Georgetown University Law Center adjunct professor in a 2015 Politico article.
"The estate then sued CBS for including footage of the speech in a segment of its documentary series 'The 20th Century with Mike Wallace' ... The trial court agreed with CBS, but an appellate court reversed and ruled in favor of the MLK estate on narrow technical grounds."
For the 2014 movie "Selma," filmmakers were forced to paraphrase the civil rights leader's words since they were licensed out to another company.
The MLK 50 Observance
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, the Memphis-based National Civil Rights Museum is launching a series of events in memory of the civil rights leader.
Known as #MLK50, the museum is working with civil rights leaders and various organizations to foster events centered on the theme of "MLK50 — Where Do We Go From Here."
"Because of Dr. King's influence not only for minorities, but also for all people in the United States and worldwide, we are observing his legacy year-round with signature events and activities aimed at remembering Dr. King while motivating and activating change," explained the museum.
"Each event, activity and shared story will help us encourage activism and spark change as we lead up to April 4, 2018, the date of Dr. King's 1968 assassination. Join us in our yearlong commemoration."
A Day of Community Service
In addition to being a federal holiday, the King observance is known as a date set aside for volunteer activities and community service.
"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," explained the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
"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.'"
A Day of Free National Park Entry
In addition to community service projects and a day off school, the observance will also be the first of four holidays in 2018 with free entry into national parks.
The other three holidays in 2018 with fee-free access are the first day of National Park Week (April 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 22), and Veterans Day (Nov.11).
The Associated Press explained in an article last month that the number of free entry days for national parks in 2018 is a sharp decrease from previous years.
"[2017's] free days included all of Veterans Day weekend and the weekends surrounding National Park Week. All of National Park Week and four days over the 100th anniversary of the Park Service were free in 2016," explained AP.
A New Effort to Preserve History
Days before this year's MLK Day observance, President Donald Trump signed the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park Act while aboard Air Force One with Alveda King, niece of Dr. King, in attendance.
The new law upgrades the status of Dr. King's home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and King's burial site from "national historic site" to "national historic park."
Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia, sponsor of the bill who has been a big critic of Trump, said in a statement released Jan. 8 that he was happy with the across-the-aisle support for the measure.
"I am so proud that we were able to work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to establish Georgia's first National Historical Park in Dr. King's name and legacy before what would be his 89th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his tragic assassination," stated Rep. Lewis.
"I hope that this moment will serve as a reminder of the constant work to realize Dr. King's dream of building the Beloved Community — a community at peace with itself and our neighbors."