Library of Congress
A greater nation… A finer world.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honors a man of conscience; the freedom movement of which he was a beacon; and his message of freedom, equality, justice and love. It is the first on the National Mall devoted, not to a United States President or war hero, but a citizen activist for civil rights and peace. Dr. King, an African-American, brings "the image of America… the melting pot of the world" to the National Mall, but his message was universal. His non-violent philosophy pushed insistently towards the goal of the American Experiment - universal freedom and equality. His principled rhetoric illuminated the Nation's journey. With his life under constant threat, his last public talk left us this inspiration: "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."
THE MEASURE OF A MAN
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s followed southern-state defiance of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ruling that segregation was unconstitutional. Dr. King dove in and supported it without reserve: He assumed leading roles in Montgomery (1954); the Crusade for Voting Rights (his first speech at Lincoln Memorial, 1957); the Atlanta restaurant sit-in (1960); the intercity Freedom Riders and Albany (Georgia) Movement (1961); Birmingham Campaign (1963); the Children's Crusade for "freedom now" so their parents could see freedom before they died (1963); the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, from which his "I Have a Dream" still resounds (1963); St. Augustine, Florida, and Mississippi (1964); the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery (1965); the Chicago drive against slums and poverty (1965); the "Meredith Mississippi March against Fear" (1966); and more. Frivolous arrests repeatedly landed him in jail and attracted Federal-authority attention to injustices to Blacks. Montgomery led to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1960; Birmingham, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Dr. King was present to see President Johnson sign; Selma, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1967, expanding his message of peace, Dr. King spoke out against the Vietnam conflict (1959-1975), then at its height in casualties.
Did You Know?
Sixteen quotes from Dr. King reach out in permanence along the granite wall facing the Tidal Basin. From his earliest work in the Civil Rights Movement to the days of advancement in the 1960’s, these words reflect the power of Dr. King’s words to inspire to the modern day.