The historic day carries dual symbolism.
A quirk in the calendar pushed President Barack Obama's public swearing-in in Washington onto the national holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington on Monday morning, several dozen people took turns taking pictures with the statue of King and reading his quotes inscribed along the wall before heading to the National Mall, about a 15-minute walk away.
Nicole Hailey, 34, had driven with her family from Monroe, N.C., a six-hour trip that they started at midnight. Hailey attended Obama's first inauguration four years ago and was carrying her Metro ticket from that day, a commemorative one with the president's face printed on it. She said her family made a point of coming to the memorial before staking out a spot for the ceremony.
"It's Martin Luther King's special day," she said. "We're just celebrating freedom."
Jon Barton, 61, and his wife Brooke Stephens, 59, of Roanoke, Va., had knocked on doors to get out the vote for Obama. On Monday they, too, were at the memorial before heading to the mall.
"When you grew up in the '60s, this means a lot," Stephens said.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the King Center was hosting its annual commemorative service featuring the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who's president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The speech will mark the first time a Latino leader has served as the keynote speaker for the commemorative service on the King holiday.
BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)