Born January 15, 1929, and called M.L. by his family, Martin Luther King, Jr. is memorialized as a visionary leader of the modern civil rights movement, a minister and an author. Characterized by his grand oratory and charismatic presence, King was known as a staunch advocate of nonviolent social protest. His assassination on April 4, 1968, was described by one biographer as “depriving America of a towering symbol of moral and social progress.” A few, among many, of the recognitions afforded King were: his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, his designation as Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1964, and his posthumous receipt of the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Carter in 1977.
King gave a stellar performance on August 28, 1963, when hundreds of thousands gathered on the Mall of Washington, DC in search of freedom and equality for all. It was during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that King delivered his stirring "I have a dream" speech asking that the same rights be afforded to ALL Americans citizens--the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The march, led by union leader A. Philip Randolph and organizer Bayard Rustin, drew more than 200,000 supporters, 50,000 of them white. They included people from all walks of life. Among their demands was the passage of the Civil Rights Bill; desegregation of schools and housing; elimination of racial discrimination in hiring; job training; an increase in minimum wage; and enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment. The institutional climax of King’s civil rights work came with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Join the National Register of Historic Places as we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the historic places associated with the struggle for civil rights that captured the attention of the United States and the world.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 1963 Photograph by Abbie Rowe National Park Service Photograph
We Shall Overcome Travel Itinerary This National Register Discover our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary highlights 49 historic places for their associations with the modern civil rights movement, including the Lincoln Memorial. On August 22, 2003 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Inscription Dedication unveiled the commemoration of the “I Have a Dream” speech with a keynote presentation by Coretta Scott King. The work, an inscription in the granite approach to the Lincoln Memorial, marks the location where Dr. King spoke to the crowd, which assembled for the March on Washington.
The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon
Analyze the influences that shaped the symbolic meaning of the bell, including why some civil rights protestors chose the Liberty Bell as their symbol for African American equality.
For more information about where the historic "I have a dream" speech took place, visit the Lincoln Memorial website and learn more about how this monument became a symbol of democracy.
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
For more information about the marches planned in an effort to dramatize the need for voting rights legislation, visit the Selma to Montgomery NHT website and learn more about how this historic event helped enact legislation that would guarantee voting rights for all Americans.
Racial Desegregation in Public Education in the U.S.
In 1998, Congress authorized the National Park Service to prepare a National Historic Landmarks Theme Study on the history of racial desegregation in public education. The purpose of the study is to identify historic places that best exemplify and illustrate the historical movement to provide for a racially nondiscriminatory education. This movement is defined and shaped by constitutional law that first authorized public school segregation and later authorized desegregation. Properties identified in this theme study are associated with events that both led to and followed these judicial decisions.
American Civil Rights
In 2000, Congress directed the National Park Service to prepare a nationwide study of the story of American Civil Rights. Completed in January 2002, Civil Rights in America: A Framework for Identifying Significant Sites, represents the first chapter in a larger study on the history of civil rights that will help the National Park Service evaluate proposals for new units in the park system. The National Park Service is proceeding with more detailed studies of additional chapters in the civil rights story by evaluating the long history of issues about equal access to public accommodations, housing, employment, and voting rights. The next volume in the series, Civil Rights in America: Racial Desegregation in Public Accommodations, is expected during 2004.