I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
These are the iconic words spoken by Martin Luther King, delivered on 28th August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. The ‘I have a Dream’ speech would go down in history as one of the defining moments of the twentieth century.
Born on January 15th 1929, Martin Luther King lived with his parents, siblings and grandparents in Atlanta, Georgia. The son of a pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King very quickly noticed the huge discriminations against African Americans. Up until 1968 the racial segregation laws, called Jim Crow laws, were enforced in the Southern United States. Among other discriminations African American people had to use separate restroom facilities and eat in separate sections of restaurants.
By early December 1955 King was a strong civil rights leader and was prominent in the famous Bus Boycott in which African Americans refused to ride city buses in Alabama. The boycott was sparked when Rosa Parks, an African American woman refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus and was consequently arrested and fined. The boycott which started the day of Rosa Parks’ arrest, lasted 382 days and only ended when the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws requiring segregation on buses to be unconstitutional. From that point on black and white people rode the buses as equals.
During the 382 days of the Bus Boycott Martin Luther King was subjected to abuse and threats and even had his home bombed. However this did not stop him protesting wherever there was injustice. He emerged as a prominent national leader and went on to deliver his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963 to 250,000 people at the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. In the same year King was named Man of the Year by Time magazine and was awarded five honorary degrees. He was now a world figure and in 1964 received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th 1968 the night before he was due to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He was standing on the balcony of his hotel room when he was killed by a single gunshot delivered by assassin James Earl Ray.
The campaign to observe Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday was introduced shortly after his assassination in 1968 but was not signed into law until 1983. In the year 2000 it was observed in all fifty states in America for the first time and the holiday is held on the third Monday in January.
Martin Luther King is still remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational leaders in history.