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Dr. Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a
Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church,
Ebenezer Baptist, which had been founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, maternal grandfather. King,
Jr., was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18.
He emerged as a leader of the American civil rights movement after organizing the famous 1955 bus boycott
in Montgomery, Alabama. He saw there, as in many other southern states, that
African-Americans had to ride in the back of public buses. Dr. King knew that this law violated the rights of
every African-American. He organized and led a boycott of the public buses in the city of Montgomery.
Any person, black or white, who was against segregation refused to use public transportation. Those people who boycotted were
threatened or attacked by other people, or even arrested or jailed by the police. After 382 Days of boycotting the
bus system, the Supreme Court declared that the Alabama state segregation law was unconstitutional. In 1963
King led a peaceful march between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his most famous speech,
"I Have a Dream."
By the mid-1960s King's role as the unchallenged leader of the civil rights movement was questioned by many
younger blacks. Activists such as Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
argued that King's nonviolent protest strategies and appeals to moral idealism were useless in the face of
sustained violence by whites. Some also rejected the leadership of ministers. In addition, many SNCC organizers
resented King, feeling that often they had put in the hard work of planning and organizing protests, only
to have the charismatic King arrive later and receive much of the credit.
In 1966 the Black Power movement,
advocated most forcefully by Carmichael, captured the nation's attention and suggested that King's influence
among blacks was waning. Black Power advocates looked more to the beliefs of the recently assassinated black
Muslim leader, Malcolm X, whose insistence on black self-reliance and the right of blacks to defend themselves
against violent attacks had been embraced by many African Americans.
In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while he was leading a workers' strike in Memphis,
Tennessee. White people and black people who had worked so hard for peace and civil rights were shocked and
angry. The world grieved the loss of this man of peace.
The History of Martin Luther King Day
15 years after Dr. King's death President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday
of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It took many years for Congress to decide to celebrate the holiday. In the years leading up to the
official decree many African-Americans celebrated the birthday themselves with a few states declaring
King's birthday a state holiday. The bill was finally passed by both the House of Representatives and
the Senate and was signed into law on November 2, 1983.
The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took place January 20, 1986. It is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January.
Click here to watch the complete speech of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Click here to read "Live Your Dreams Now!" by Willie Jolley.
A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Martin Luther King, Jr. -
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the Civil Rights movement,
inspiring generations of Americans and transforming the future of the United States. This collection
includes the text of Dr. King's best-known oration, "I Have a Dream," his acceptance speech for the
Nobel Peace Prize, and "Beyond Vietnam," a compelling argument for ending the ongoing conflict.
Each speech has an insightful introduction on the current relevance of Dr. King's words by such
renowned defenders of civil rights as Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama, and Ambassador Andrew Young, among others.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Clayborne Carson -
Clayborne Carson is the director and editor of the Martin Luther King Papers
Project; with thousands of King's essays, notes, letters, speeches, and sermons at his disposal, Carson has organized
King's writings into a posthumous autobiography. Through King's voice, the reader intimately shares in his trials
and triumphs, including the Montgomery Boycott, the 1963 "I Have a Dream Speech," the Selma March, and the 1964
Nobel Peace Prize. In one of his last speeches, King reminded his audience that "in the final analysis, God does
not judge us by the separate incidents or the separate mistakes that we make, but by the total bent of our lives."
Voices: Reflections on an American Icon Through Words and Song The book offers reflections from foot soldiers who marched alongside Dr. King, contemporary observers, and distinguished witnesses to history, such as Julian Bond, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and Harris Wofford, assistant to President John F. Kennedy. Also included are writers, like the spirited poet Nikki Giovanni, Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Patterson, and journalist John Seigenthaler, an assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Nobel Peace Prize-winners Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have also added their thoughts on King, whose passion was to bring all people together in a symphony of love, said Noel Leo Erskine, an associate professor of ethics and theology at Emory University.
The Voices CD features one of the countrys finest symphonic choirs, The Choral Arts Society of Washington. Members lift their voices in songs such as Goin' Up to Glory, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and Dr. King s favorite hymn, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. Music was selected from the Society's annual tributes to Dr. King at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.