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US to Observe Holiday Honoring Civil Rights Icon

Americans across the country paused Monday to observe the federal holiday marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Monday to remember and reflect on King's legacy. The civil rights leader was an Atlanta native.

There were parades in several cities to honor King's work.

President Barack Obama and his family were among the many Americans who marked the holiday by volunteering for service projects and other charity events. They were part of the team at a Washington soup kitchen feeding needy people.

The holiday was created in 1983 when then-president Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honor King, who was born on January 15, 1929. Congress designated the King holiday as a national day of service in 1994, a move aimed at encouraging Americans to take part in community projects.

King first rose to prominence in 1955 when he led a successful boycott of the public buses in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregating black passengers. He would go on to become the foremost public figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, inspiring millions with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year a landmark civil rights bill was signed by then-President Lyndon Johnson.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to assist striking black garbage workers seeking equal pay.

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